Tuesday, December 27, 2011

An Unexpected Start

   At the time of my last post, Dec. 16th, we had finished school for the day, for the weekend (it was Friday) and for the next 2 weeks because it was the beginning of our Christmas break.  I had lots of plans.  I had all sorts of things I was going to do.... areas that I needed to organize, presents to wrap, one more shopping day planned with the kids so that they could buy a few gifts.
   Dan was not feeling well at the time.  He had the day off, and had gone into the doctor that morning.  They couldn't find anything wrong with him....  no fever, normal urinalysis, normal blood work, normal X-ray.  However, he had been having pain in his lower abdomen for 2 days, and it was getting worse.  He went to bed early (that's probably when I made my post), but was up again in a good bit of pain by 11:00 pm.  We started self-diagnosing (suspecting appendicitis), and he decided to try to go to bed again and see if it got worse.  In just a few hours, we were up and heading to the ER.  I left a note for the kids.  In less than an hour, while in the ER, his appendix ruptured.  He was transferred by ambulance to another hospital where he could have surgery.  Christmas vacation plans changed!!
   The kids were great!!  My mom, dad and sister all were close by to help out, and our 3 oldest girls did wonders to keep things moving smoothly at home.  I honestly was completely  pleasantly surprised by how well Jonathan did.  God most certainly gives grace when you need it.  It was the first time that we'd been away overnight from him..... and this was not just overnight.... it was over 36 hours before we returned home.  Sunday evening we made it back and continued on with "Plan B" for Christmas vacation.  Things didn't get done in the timely way I'd wanted.  The shopping trip was put off until the following Friday after Dan had gotten his drainage tube removed and was doing better.  My "to do" list has a lot still "to be done!"  But, even after the surprise to our holidays, the Lord blessed us with lots of happy times to remember!

Christmas crafts!

More hand-made things--

Decorating cookies

Ready, Set ....

Dig in!!!

Completing the Advent calendar

Opening presents

One of the best gifts:  Family!

Friday, December 16, 2011

What's Missing?

   Challenges have been many over the past few months...  It can be easy to fall prey to our enemy's subtle attempts to lapse into negativity about things that go on around our household.  I really don't want to do that.  We have come a really  long way in the past 2 months.  Hopefully I will have more of a chance to blog about that in the 2 weeks we are taking off for Christmas vacation.  But, for tonight, I wanted to at least get a quick post done here, and let it be a good reminder of what we have NOT had to face at all during the 4 months that Jonathan has been home with us.
    When we started learning about adoption and what all we could be up against, I remember several things standing out to me.  One was sleeping problems.  Night terrors are very common in children who have been raised in institutions.  Sleeping problems in general are to be expected.  So, I mentally prepared for the months after Jonathan came home to be sleep-disruptive times.  Praise the Lord, it was not to be!  He sleeps wonderfully well.  I can only think of three  times that I have even heard a peep coming from his bedroom, and that was actually more like talking in his sleep than any type of distress.  He not only goes to sleep well, he even sleeps LATE!!  Wow--  He's always the last one up every morning, and on Saturdays when there is no reason to get up, he will usually sleep much later still.  Amazing!
   The second issue of which we were highly warned was about eating habits.  Many children who live in orphanages have sensory problems that affect the way they like or dislike food and its textures.  So many (who have been raised in institutions similar to the ones he was in) have had very, very limited diets, mostly of mashed foods like porridge, and things with any varied texture turns them off.  Finding foods that the kids will eat can be a challenging situation.  OR -- these kids might  react to having been hungry all of their lives by consequently trying to eat everything in sight.... gorging until they actually throw up, and hoarding food in their bedrooms.  I was anticipating time at the table being times of concern.  However, (praising God again on this one!!) Jonathan will surprisingly eat basically anything we put on his plate!!  He was only used to bland-tasting things, and even calls regular ketch-up "spicy", but he will still eat it, because his brother and sister eat it, and he wouldn't dare be left out on anything!!  (O.K.  -- so occasionally that strong tendency toward comparison works in our favor!!.... not that I care if he eats ketch-up, but it works great when Leslie and Justin call broccoli 'yummy', so Jonathan thinks it is, too!!)  We saw right away on our "Gotcha Day" that -- given the chance -- Jonathan would definitely gorge himself with food.  But, it doesn't seem to be as a result of having faced a lot of starvation.  He just doesn't know when to quit.  He WILL choose to quit if everyone around him is finishing up with the meal and is choosing to go on to do fun things.  Remember, he doesn't want to be left out of anything, so he's learned that if he doesn't keep filling his plate with seconds and thirds, he can finish faster and go join in on the fun!!  He is typically a very slow eater, and that works in our favor, too..... except on mornings that I'm trying to get him to hurry and he is eating his Cheerios one by one (which is OFTEN!!)  By the time he finishes his first healthy serving of whatever is for dinner, everyone else is usually long gone, and he'll finish up just to go find out what Leslie or Justin is doing. 
   So, while we HAVE had a fair share of troubles in adjusting to other areas, issues with sleeping and eating have been conspicuously missing from our household, and I am VERY grateful!!!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Fantastic Field Trip

  A couple of weeks ago we had an appointment in Montgomery in the morning.  Since the school day was already going to be very out-of-whack, I decided that it was time for a Field Trip instead of "regular school."  We're studying American History this year, so Dan's mom met us in Montgomery, and we took the kids to the Alabama Archives building. 

It is downtown, right beside the state capitol building.  In fact, if you look in the picture above, you can see the reflection of the capitol in the doors of the Archives!
We had a very nice tour guide, and he shared many facts that we had recently covered in our home school studies.  Actually, most of the items we saw went right along with our units of history!  I always appreciate it when a field trip is very good reinforcement to what I've been trying to get across!!

There is a new addition of Native American rooms which Justin enjoyed!
And, we had just  finished a unit on the Civil War, so this part was very applicable:

When we had completed the tour and actual museum-type part of the building, we went down the hall to "Grandma's Attic." 

This is the only part of the Archives that I had brought the girls to when they were little.  They loved to play dress-up then, and ....  well, some things never change!!  :)

"Grandma's Attic" is a hands-on place for kids to experience different aspects of life in Alabama throughout history.  It has LOTS of activities.  This one was Jonathan's favorite:

We did manage to get him away from the train set long enough to join the others in dressing up, though:

And, the final one when I got them all together!  LOTS of fun!!!


Saturday, November 26, 2011

Fun Fall Photos

   I was determined to post some fall pictures before we got too far into the Christmas season!!  Each year our family generally carves a pumpkin sometime toward the end of October.  It's never your "normal" carved pumpkin  with triangle eyes and nose.  Usually anyone who would like to draws a picture, we choose the favorite, and Daddy carves it into the pumpkin with help from everyone else.
 This year, Jonathan was in the middle of the fun.  He wasn't too sure exactly  what was going on, but he decided after a few minutes that he DID like the goopy mess.  At first, he wasn't too sure.

     The younger kids helped Daddy, and the older girls helped me in the kitchen while we tried a new recipe of home made carmel.  After the pumpkin was finished, we sliced apples and had carmel sauce for dipping!

Here is the finished product!
This year it was in honor of one of the much-loved pets around here....

Rachel's beloved bunny, Fudge. 

More fun fall shots:

Jonathan continues to love being outdoors. 

Justin and Daddy on a walk, returning from "The Back 40."  I love that this picture shows Jessie (our dog) right where she is the happiest...  If Dan or any of the kids leave the yard, she is always with them.

Actually, even in the yard, Jessie's always with them.  Here, Justin had raked up a bunch of leaves.  He and Leslie had fun jumping into them, and then he got a good book he'd been reading and read out loud to her until it was too dark to see.  Jessie sat close beside until they had gone indoors.....

Then, SHE took a turn jumping in the leaf pile just to make sure she wasn't missing out on anything!!  It was hilarious.

"It doesn't matter--" or does it???

   Jonathan's English learning can bring up some very funny comments.  The rest of us get to see what phrases we say the most, because those are the ones that he learns the easiest.  It's all about repetition.  One big thing that he hears from me very often is, "It doesn't matter."  The reason for this repeated phrase is that Jonathan is big into comparisons....  you know, "Leslie's piece of cake is bigger than mine..."  or   "Justin's apple is bigger than mine..."  or "Leslie's turn on the swing lasted for 10 minutes and my turn wasn't that long."  Things like that.
   Well, my reply is usually, "Jonathan, it doesn't matter.  Your apple will probably be bigger next time.  It doesn't matter.  Your turn will probably be longer next time."  And, most of the time, it is....  but he doesn't usually remember  those times!!
   In fact, the kids were letting him go first on so many things around here, that he somehow got it in his mind that going first was somehow getting the bad end of the deal.  So, he started saying things like, "You kissed me first last night.  Kiss Justin first tonight...."  or   "I went first in this game yesterday.  Make Leslie go first today..."   So, again, my reply was, "Jonathan, it doesn't matter!!!!   It doesn't matter who is first...  it just doesn't matter!! 
   So, I should not have been surprised in the least when this particular phrase entered his vocabulary!!  It was still VERY funny when he used it the first time!
   We were doing his spelling during school time.  I called out a word, and he misspelled it.  I told him, "Try again.  You've got this word wrong."  He looked at me and said very casually, "It doesn't matter."  Ha Ha!!  Well, ummm, lots of things don't  matter, but this particular one does!
   This has become our family's private joke whenever something doesn't go the way someone thinks it should.  We look at each other with a sarcastic look and say, "It just doesn't matter!!"  :) 

Thursday, November 24, 2011

So Much to be Thankful For!!

   Our first Thanksgiving with Jonathan!!  He loved it, and we had a really great day!  After eating his first piece of pumpkin pie topped with plenty of whipped cream, he told me, "Thank you for Thanksgiving!!" :)
   We had a house full of people....  our family, my parents, my sister and her family, my aunt and uncle, 3 cousins and all of their families.... 30 people in all!  After the kids helped us finish cleaning up and getting the house looking good enough to host all of those people, we looked around and said, "Hey -- the house hasn't looked this good since we had our first social worker visit during our home study!!"  Ha Ha!!  
   I was concerned that Jonathan would be WAY over-stimulated, but he did fine.  He almost seemed a little bit intimidated by all the new faces.  And, honestly, that is NOT a bad thing at all.  Sometimes the new situations bring out behaviors that reveal the lack of good social skills.  I didn't see that much at all today.  I am very thankful for that!
   Another thing that I'm thankful for is that the fund raiser for Jonathan's former orphanage totaled over $2000!!  That is just wonderful!  THANKS to anyone who contributed.  I"ll post pictures at some point in the future when we get to see how the lives of those sweet children still waiting there have been improved by the generosity of people here!
   One other big thing to be grateful for is that one other little cutie will be leaving that orphanage for good and joining her family here in Alabama next week!!  Annikah's mommy leaves tomorrow to go get her little girl!!!  You can follow along with Shelley's blog.
   Just before the kids were heading off to bed tonight, we used the automatic setting on the camera to get a group shot!!

This time last year, our dossier was all set to be sent to Bulgaria! 
I'm very thankful that we are now a family of eight!!!

Monday, November 21, 2011

If you want to be blessed............

   Some of you know that Dan and I and our family have been back living in America for four year now... and that for quite a few years prior to that we were in Mongolia.  It was actually in Mongolia that we met, have lived most of our married years, and actually experienced God's first move in our hearts to be touched by orphans.  It was there that my older girls and I first walked through an orphanage's doors, played with the children, and left burdened for all of them that were in need of a family. 
   Now that we've been back in Alabama for these years, it's sometimes easy to feel like an American again.  However, all it takes is one phone conversation with either a Mongolian friend or a former co-worker to make me realize loud and clearly that a large part of my heart is still there, and always will be.
   Today, though, it wasn't a phone conversation, but pictures and a story on the blog of a lady who is THERE right now--playing with the children in that orphanage that we visited, seeing the faces of those children and lots more.  My eyes were full of tears and my heart was wow-ed by all that God has done for them already on their journey. 
   If you want to be blessed by hearing just a little of all that God can do, go HERE and read about their trip.  At least 2 of these ladies are adoptive moms, both having adopted 2 children each from Mongolia themselves, and who have returned (one of them makes an annual trip) to take supplies to the children still waiting in orphanages in that country.  Scroll down to the November 20th post to read first about the miracles that God did to get them there with all their luggage in the first place, and then go back up to the pictures of sweet faces of those precious children!!!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Time goes on....

  OK-- so I'm not winning the most consistent blogger award, here, am I?  Oh well -- Life moves on... quite quickly, actually!!  :)
  About a month ago, (only 2 or 3 posts ago, though, if you look back!) I mentioned how some things just have to get worse before they can get better.  Well, we're here to say that they did get worse, but that they are getting lots better!! 
  Jonathan has finally accepted our daily routine (one that includes home schooling!) and has become much more cooperative with that part of the day.... both in doing the work that I have for him, as well as not being a hindrance to others accomplishing their work.
  We still try as much as possible to keep things really low-key.  We attempt to keep as regular a schedule as possible to keep Jonathan from being over-stimulated.  I frequently remind myself of all the challenges he has set up against him right now:
  • language stresses -- Jonathan loves to talk.  That goes a long way in language learning!!  Ha!  But, it can be frustrating when you can't communicate all that you want to.  He has honestly gotten so good at his efforts in "charades" that we have to remind him to "use words, Jonathan!" or he would just depend on really good hand signals with some English phrases thrown in here and there.
  • lack of cultural and social understanding -- We are trying to help him learn how to relate to others in ways that are positive and encourage friendship.
  • delays and disabilities -- it will be awhile before we see where one leaves off and the other is left.  So many of the challenges that Joanthan faces are just stemming from normal delays that come with nine long years of living in an institution.  We constantly pray for wisdom in knowing how to discern where to place our expectations for what he can and can't accomplish.  Sometimes there is a lot of room for "cutting him slack."  Other times, Jonathan needs very much to be held to a high standard of behavior because we know that he can do better.  We don't want to be letting him get away with things that he shouldn't, but at the same time, we need to find a really good balance of extending grace to a little boy who has come so far and yet has far to go.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

My Boys!!

  Since I started this as an adoption blog for those that were following Jonathan's adoption, I haven't posted lots about our other kids.  However, as I was just looking through recent photos, I found a couple that I'd never seen before.  One of the girls must have taken these.  Meet my "Huckleberry Finn."

This has now become my favorite picture of Justin.  It is just classic him!!  It wasn't posed.... he really spends many of his days with bamboo and his pocket knife, making some sort of fort or new invention.  And, this next one is almost as good.

Justin is a country boy -- 100%.  He loves creeks, ponds, the woods, the barn --  and the dirtier he gets, the better.  I don't love the resulting laundry, but I love watching him explore.  Justin has always been a mud magnet.  And, we're finding Jonathan following in his footsteps!

What started as a simple mud pie (or actually, I think he told me it was a "mud pizza").....

 turned into a mud party!! 

And, Leslie joined the fun.

While Leslie thoroughly enjoys tea parties and dress up, baby dolls and playing with cooking things, she still doesn't shy away from a little mud (or a LOT in this case!)  

Of course, I wouldn't let them back into the house like this,   ---  so I got out the hose..... 

..... and washed away their mud, but not the memories!!!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Beyond Bringing One Home

    The number of orphaned children is the world is overwhelming.  When you hear the numbers and consider the enormity of it all, it just seems to be an impossible task to make even the least little bit of difference.

     When I first visited the orphanage where Jonathan lived, I thought that I would never, ever be able to walk away and leave behind the children that we were NOT adopting.... and trust me, --  it was not  an easy thing to do.  I was SO excited to be making a difference to this ONE, and yet heart broken for the other many that are still there in between those walls. 

     Once back in America, Shelley and I started talking about the institution itself. (I've mentioned Shelley here before.  She has adopted one son from this orphanage, and very soon will be going back to bring home a precious little girl.)  I had been so impressed with the way Jonathan was taken care of...  he was always neat and clean, and so were the other children.  He rode the bus to the next largest village to go to school.  And, as I've mentioned here before, 2 years ago, he had had a surgery on his leg to help correct the results of his Cerebral Palsy.  The director obviously did a really good job of meeting the kids' basic needs. 

     On our first visit, Dan and I asked the director what the biggest need for the orphanage was at that time.  We were planning to take back a gift to donate to the home as a thank-you for the care that they'd given Jonathan.  Her answer actually surprised us.  She said, "Paint!"  For several years, it had been obvious that there were basic maintainance needs of the building itself, but she said that the money in the budget just never stretched far enough.  She was using the budgeted money for all the right things....  for the children.  However, if the building crumbles around the heads of the children, then obviously it directly affects their lives!  Dan and I did take back a financial gift that would help with paint.  But, Shelley already had a bigger plan in the works, and we told the director that "more was in the making!"

     In about 7 weeks, Shelley will visit this orphanage again.  She will be there for the very thrilling task of walking away with her sweet little daughter!!  Between now and then, we are getting the word out about the way that we'd like to impact more  children than the ones we've been able to adopt....   We'd like to raise enough money to leave the ones left behind with a refurbished play room downstairs, an activity room upstairs, and new flooring in at least 4 bedrooms.

     Would you like to join us?  Shelley has just posted the plans on her blog--- complete with pictures and videos of the things that need to be done.  Go HERE to see it, and read about several ways that you might could participate in the fund-raiser.  If you'd simply like to help by cash or a check, let me know, and I'll give you details!  I'm so excited to see how BIG this is going to be.  The goal is set for $2500, but I'm praying for even bigger and better ways to stretch the blessing!!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

   PROGRESS---  that's what we've been seeing around our house the past 2 weeks.  It is always good to make progress....  but it can often seem bad in the process, and honestly, in these past 2 weeks, it has often looked  ugly.  There is absolutely no reason at all to try to convince anyone that adoption of any sort is a breeze.  So, I won't try to smooth over the wrinkles and pretend that all has gone extremely well here lately.  Some things just have to get worse before they can get better.
   Now, when we are in the middle of an ugly tantrum or a battle of the wills, I don't reach for my camera to document the moment!  So, most certainly all of the pictures that I post will be of the "good" rather than the "bad" or the "ugly."  But, I will still let you know that those times without smiles on our faces are there.
    However.... would I change it for even a minute????  Not a chance. 
    Have we been blessed beyond measure in ways that we didn't even think of?   Absolutely.

    I almost titled this post, "The Way it Should Be" because -- when you really stop and think about it  --  it very honestly should  be difficult for a child who has lived 9 years in an institution to have difficulty learning that he is a very welcome member of our home, and that all of the members of our home work together, have responsibilities, have requirements, and must work together to keep things going smoothly.

    Progress --  lots of steps in the right direction.  Jonathan is learning some of the boundaries both inside and outside our home.  When he first came home, he needed someone with him all day long to ensure both his safety (so that he didn't head outside alone and get hurt doing something dangerous) and to ensure that he understood what was an "OK" thing to do (play with toys in his room) and what was not  an OK thing to do (take all the things out of his sister's closet or dresser drawers).  It was very necessary to have a permanent "chaperone" all the time.  That is very understandable, and it was a really good thing because we had countless opportunities to communicate.  He and I talked about everything we were doing.  He learned LOTS of English because there was constant interaction.  However, soon we realized that he had gotten used to the idea that he had someone who was sort of a "captive audience."  He had a constant playmate!!  While I certainly enjoy spending time playing with him (I've climbed more trees in the past 7 weeks that I had in the past many years put together! :)  ) and it is extremely important in encouraging his attachment to me, ---there were a couple of drawbacks.  He got to the point where he wouldn't entertain himself very well (which we knew he had been capable of doing!), and he wouldn't respect the times that I was trying to talk to someone else....  he was used to my (or anyone, for that matter) talking to him, listening to him.  So, we've had to work on those types of things.  There is progress in that area now, and more will come with time.

     More progress has come with Jonathan's being able to express emotion.  He was home for over 5 weeks before he ever cried when he got hurt.  And, trust me, he had been hurt countless  times while learning to ride the bike.  We doctored scrapes, cuts, bruises, etc.  -- all while he was keeping up a nervous sort of laughter.  We knew that those things were hurting him.  But, many children who have been raised in an institution have long since given up crying about things.  When babies who have loving parents start to cry, the parent takes care of their needs.  When babies in orphanages cry, they find that the caretakers do not generally respond....  there are just too many little ones to care for.  So, after a while of crying with no response to their needs, they give up the effort.
    About 2 weeks ago, I was outside playing with Jonathan, and he fell really hard.  I knew that it had to have hurt very badly.  I ran to him immediately, and he started to cry.  He let me hold him and soothe him.  He didn't cry for long at all, but it was SO huge.
    Other emotions have been coming as well....  anger coming on stronger and stronger.  Each week that goes by, he expresses his anger in a more definite way.  When Jonathan is needing discipline, we never use "time out."  He has lived his life isolated in many ways from examples of what appropriate behavior is.  He needs "time IN"...  which is time spent in a chair near me (not being sent away from me) while he considers what behavior needs to be improved upon.  However, now that he has started expressing his anger so loudly, he and I have to go to his room together for his "time in," to keep him from totally disrupting everyone else's school time, meal time, or whatever.  One day while we were there in his room, I drew pictures of faces showing different emotions.  This seemed to actually get through to him.  The first day he wouldn't point to which emotion he was feeling, but the next day, he did.  And once he "told" me how angry he was, he started to get over it.  I'd much rather him let his emotions out than keep them wrapped up inside where they eat away at him.  So, now the challenge is teaching him to properly express those emotions and learn the self -control necessary to choose to do that.

    So, the progress is good, and we just live by faith through the bad and ugly parts of it ....  hanging onto the faith that one day, it won't look so bad and ugly anymore!!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

So much to post..... So little time!

     5 Weeks home....  I actually had lost count and thought it was six!  Ha!  It's been awhile since I wrote about progress going on here.  The past 2 weeks or so have been full of ups and downs.
     First of all --   "Teddy" is becoming "Jonathan Theodor Jacobsen."  We are slowly changing over to his new name.  When we taught him the phrase, "What is your name?" we all would practice with our whole name-- first, middle and last.  So, he learned right away that his new name was Jonathan Theodor Jacobsen.  However, he always referred to himself as Theodor; the nickname "Teddy" was what he was called by the orphanage staff.  We wanted to keep "Theodor" as his middle name, and -- since he was already 9 years old when he joined us, if he really wanted to keep his name, then that was OK with us.  In the last week, though, he has started referring to himself as Jonathan Theodor, so that's what we've been calling him as well.  It's a mouthful, but hopefully soon we can switch to just "Jonathan" if he is satisfied with that!

     Next, thanks to my sister, Cathy, who just happens to be an O.T. (how much of a blessing is that?!) , "Jonathan Theodor" has started with some therapy!!!  Cathy evaluated him last weekend and gave us some ideas that we've started putting into practice.


     Here Teddy is putting the little glass beads into a container that is just out of his comfortable reach.  It forces him to stretch his hips and legs.  Cathy is working to make most of his therapy into game-type things.  If we demonstrate it for Teddy, his competitive nature makes him want to do it just like we did!

      One other good thing is that "Jonathan Theodor" is doing really well in school.  That is NOT to say that he is enjoying it.  In spite of the break through that we had that one week, the weekend always messes things up!!  He goes 2 days without school, and goes back to his old protests every Monday.  But, quite honestly, he is making a lot of progress.

     The "downer" side of the days since I last posted is that Teddy really has ramped up the "testing" behaviors.  It's fully expected, fully understandable, and fully a patience tester!  :)  Not only has he been having some issues with Dan and me, but he also got to the point where he'd been around everyone in our household long enough to know exactly what it takes to aggravate others (brother and sisters) ... and he hasn't always made himself very endearing to some of them!

     Now, it's very, very easy only to look at the testing and the irritations as negatives.  But, that is simply just from a worldly perspective.  Truth be told (God's truth, that is!), every single time that Teddy challenges Dan's or my authority is a gift of an opportunity to teach a little boy what consistent, loving discipline is.  When I keep that  perspective, being consistent and loving in my discipline comes easier.  When my eyes are NOT looking from that perspective, then life is not pretty.  Over the course of the past 2 weeks, there have been times that I've been floored by obvious answers to my prayer for God to pour out His peace in my heart, and give me His unconditional love for a little boy who has never experienced it.  Grace... it's only God's grace.  Other times, I will confess, I have been floored by ugly examples of my pride that pull me into a power struggle with Teddy that need not be there.  That, too, turns out to be grace again -- grace of a loving Father who cares enough to expose the pride that is obviously there, and teach me to let Him root it out.  And then, the irritations that Teddy has recently enjoyed bringing about in his brother and sisters -- from God's perspective -- those things can be such good opportunities to let God build Christ-like character in them, too.  Tough---  but SO rewarding if we'll all yield to the Spirit and His prompting to respond in a Christ-like way.

Teddy is learning to be gentle with the bunny rabbit!

Our little Indian -- complete with red berry war paint made by Justin!  Teddy wants to do whatever anyone else is doing.... even if he doesn't exactly understand what it is that they are doing!  Ha!  He had no idea whatsoever why he was putting chicken feathers in his "head band," but if it was good enough for Justin, it was good enough for him!!  :)


Wednesday, September 7, 2011

What Comes Naturally

  My kids have a great daddy!  Dan is very involved with them, and they love for him to be around.  He's a very hard worker, and often gets the kids to work along side him at home.  BUT,  he plays hard, too!  :)  Dan is very competitive, and the kids get so excited when Daddy is involved in a game....  he always makes it more fun.  So, therefore, what comes naturally when Daddy has to be away from home?  We all miss him very much.  We think about him, talk about what he might be doing, and can't wait for him to get back.  When he makes it home, the kids all talk at the same time trying to catch him up with things that have happened while he's been gone, they cover him with hugs, and hardly will let him leave the room without someone tagging along!
   What comes naturally to a child who has lived for 9 years in an institution?  "Natural" is the fact that no adults permanently live with you.  The caretakers work shifts, and then go home to their families.  An orphan does not usually have one particular person that he is attached to, one that he misses a lot when that person is gone.  Teddy walked away from the place that had been his home for 5 years and never even casually glanced back.  ( He had been moved there when he was too old to stay in the "baby house" anymore.)  Some of the caretakers seemed sad to see him go, but he did not look even one of them in the eye.  I don't think he even would have waved if we hadn't been waving with him.
   Dan left in the early hours of Tuesday morning to go on an out-of-state business trip.  The other kids knew what was going on, but I forgot to try to prepare Teddy.  Dan is always up and gone to work well before Teddy wakes up each morning, so he got up on Tuesday with nothing seeming any different to him anyway.  I thought that at lunch he would ask where Daddy was, since Dan usually comes in about the time we're getting ready to sit down to eat.  Teddy was oblivious.  I thought that when we got ready for bed, and Dan wasn't there, that Teddy might ask where Daddy was.  Dan always prays with the kids and gives them kisses and hugs before they head to bed.  NO reaction whatsoever from Teddy.  Surely when another day went by, he would ask when Daddy would be home.  All day today, I thought it might occur to him that someone was missing.  He never even realized it.  The kids were all ready for bed tonight when the phone rang.  It was Dan, and I was glad that he called while Teddy was still awake.  I explained what was going on to Dan, and handed the phone to Teddy.  It was unbelievable to watch the expression on his face.....  at first no understanding at all....  then when I said, "It's Daddy" again, it was kind of like a light bulb going on.
   I just wish I knew what really goes on inside his head.  What does he really comprehend yet about "family?"  Are Dan and I still very much like caretakers who might show up for their shift..... or, might not?  Of course, with our house having 7 people in it all the time even without Daddy, Teddy hasn't been lacking for attention or things to do.  He's been enjoying all of the things that he did NOT have at the institution, and the big 'job' of playing takes most of his interest, anyway.  But, it's been painfully obvious that there is quite a lack of attachment yet in his emotions toward those of us who call him part of our family now.  It will take awhile before family  is just what comes naturally.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Three Weeks Home

   Here are pictures of our third week.  Progress is being made every day....  Teddy's legs are getting stronger, and his English is getting better.  Friday he had his first pediatric appointment.  He got 3 shots and a finger prick..... the blood pressure cuff was fun, but those 4 things were not fun at all.... HOWEVER, as we were headed out, the very sweet nurse (who thought Teddy was great!) asked, "Does he like stickers?"  Ha!  So, the 4 not-so-fun things added up to 4 big  stickers.... and he walked out smiling!
   After the full exam, the pediatrician gave us her opinion (not an official diagnosis, I guess, but it does certainly make sense) --- She said that he most likely has mild cerebral palsy.  She suggested looking into therapy just for strengthening his muscles, particularly the left leg.  The surgery that was done 2 years ago (from the looks of things) was most likely not  to correct a club foot.  From the sound of his translated medical file, it was to loosen a rigid Achilles tendon.  We'll still talk with an orthopedist, not exactly for an exam, but just to get his "take" on things.
   So, for a few pictures of the week:

Climbing trees, riding bikes, and swimming still remain the top 3 favorite activities.  Here is Teddy with Sarah and Anna.

Bubble blowing was fun, too!

This is the first family picture of ALL of us together!

Friday, September 2, 2011

One Big Break-through

    We started our home school routine just 36 hours after Teddy arrived in America.  We got home late on the night of Saturday, August 13th, and started school at 8:00 am on Monday morning.  Everything was so new on those first days that Teddy very much was in the "honeymoon" phase of adjustment, and all was well.  It only took a few days, though, before he had realized that "school time" was not the most fun part of the day!  :)  From that point on, we had a battle over one part of the schedule during school time.  But, a nice break-through came 2 days ago..... I was SO excited.  Every day prior to Wednesday, Teddy would realize that I was about to ask him to work on phonics.  He would look me straight in the eye with lots of purpose and say, "NO, Ma-mo!" (He still calls me "Ma-Mo" which is Bulgarian!)  It had honestly been quite a long time since one of our kids had flat -out told me NO!  Now, that's not to say that we have perfectly obedient kids....  usually they do agree, though, but sometimes with delaying tactics!!  We just typically had most of the real battles finished when they were younger.... and had established the chain of authority!!  :)
   So, Teddy kept up his insistence every day that he would NOT do phonics, but in the end, every day (sometimes after a long while, sometimes not-so-long) he would realize that I was very serious when I said, "NO phonics, then NO bike riding!"  He always ended up doing the work, but the next day, it was the same all over again, and I could see by the look on his face that each day he REALLY wished that he could wait me out and see if I would yield first.  But, all it usually took was for it to become obvious that since Leslie was being cooperative, she could cruise on through phonics, math, and reading while he sat pouting at the table saying, "NO!" every time I glanced his way.  The closer she got to being finished with the subjects that must come before any outdoor activities could take place, the more he would realize that SHE was going to beat him to the bike!!  Finally, he would cave in to the calling of the bike!
   However, on Wednesday, even before I asked him to come work on phonics, he did a funny pantomime of sitting at the table doing school work, and said, "Yes, Ma-mo!"   --- Lots of high fives and stickers when that  subject was done!! :)  Hurray!!
   That continued on Thursday and today!!  I think we've won that battle!  More are there to win, of course!  Last night I was looking through the original file we first read about Teddy, and it said, "He has a pronounced stubbornness!!"  I had completely forgotten that was even in there!  We had not seen that part of his personality on our first visit at all.  Naturally it showed up before too long, back while we were still in Bulgaria with him, but it just made me laugh to read it!  The thing about orphan children being stubborn, though, is that it usually is one of the characteristics that -- very honestly -- has kept them alive to this point.  That is not true for all children, of course, but it makes sense that a stubborn persistence in life keeps them from giving in when their lives are very hard.  I'm thankful for the victories we have seen this week.... but I am thankful, too, for his persistence!
   I have reward stickers that have various words of encouragement on them....  Good Job!   Great Work!   Excellent!   Awesome!  Tonight before bed, I got out the calendar and showed him that since today was Friday, tomorrow was a "no school" day.  Teddy's reply??     "AWESOME!"   :)

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Hot and Hotter!

  This has been one HOT week.  It didn't help that our A.C. thermostat went out earlier in the week.  One day the girls told me that it didn't seem to be acting right, and we started to be concerned when it wasn't staying on in spite of the temperature rising.  By the time Dan and I went upstairs to go to bed, it was 84 degrees up there.  Obviously I was tired enough that it didn't even phase me, though, because we opened all the windows, turned on the attic fan, and I went promptly to sleep!!  The next day, I called the guy we knew who might could help us out with it.  He was near a supply store just when I called, and when I told him the "symptoms," he guessed what the problem was, bought us a new thermostat, and was here to install it within a few hours!!  Praise the Lord!!  The very next day, the high temperature was 101.5.... and that was before adding humidity/heat index! 

   So, all week long, I stood in the shade--  pouring sweat -- just watching  Teddy learning to ride the bike.  I don't know how he stood it, but he has almost gotten the hang of riding decently well.

Watermelon is great  on a hot day!!  Unfortunately, he must have eaten too much on this day, because he threw up not long after I took this picture--  :(

 Teddy continues to make pretty good progress learning English.  After church today, I decided that this week we would learn some new phrases like, "Don't yell in church!"  I realized that this would be needful since -- 1/3 of the way through the service, he saw my dad, and called out loudly, "GRANDDADDY!!!"  We were sitting on the back row just in case he got too noisy or was distracting others.  Other than that one thing, he was pretty good, though.  We'd had a battle at the beginning because he didn't want to sit in the back.  There wasn't room for our whole family there, so some of our other kids were sitting toward the front, and he wanted to sit with them.  He was quite angry with me, and pouted for awhile, and then ended up crying for a few minutes.  But, he got over it.  Next time, I plan to go into the sanctuary early and explain better about why  we are sitting where we are, and how he can "earn" the right to sit with the rest of the kids by using good behavior.
   We have at least one battle a day.  So far, there has always been something to use as good leverage in order to get him to give in to what I'm asking him to do.  It takes awhile though.  He puts up a good fight, but eventually, whatever it is that he is missing out on until he gives in pushes him over the edge and he yields.

    He got his glasses yesterday.  All day on Friday he asked if we were going in the car.  Driving meant that we would go pick up his glasses.  Before that, driving had meant that we might go swimming.  So, when I told him that we'd get his glasses the next day, but that we WOULD cool off on that hot day by going to the pool, he liked the trade quite well!!  (forgot to take along the camera that day again, though!)

So here he is --- very proud of his new glasses!!  Afterwards, we really needed to go by Wal*mart.  While there, I fully expected him to stop every single stranger and show them his glasses!!  I was pleasantly surprised to see that he didn't approach ONE single stranger.  What a change!!  I (mistakenly) thought that we might  be making progress in that area....  only to see that at church this morning, he stopped at least 15 people (most were strangers to him) and showed them his glasses.  So, apparently, the lack of "people approaching" yesterday was all on the account of being thoroughly overwhelmed/overstimulated by Wal*mart, and all of the "stuff" it contained (in spite of the fact that we DID avoid the toy area and stayed only with the aisles that we absolutely needed!)

Here are just a few more pictures of the week... (Week 2 as a Jacobsen!!)

Helping me make bread--  This seems to be a good activity to work on wrist and arm strength!!  :)

He worked on puzzles this afternoon -- with some help from Sarah.  He did a really good job, though.  This was obviously not the first time he had tried to put a puzzle together, though.  I really don't imagine that they had them at his orphanage.... so maybe he had done some at school.

So, I'm getting set for a new week.  The weekend usually throws him off a bit because we don't follow our normal (school) schedule.  I'll brace myself for a battle or 2 tomorrow!! :)  It definitely helps to keep in mind all of the things he is accomplishing ... and the stress of the battles stays in perspective.