Thursday, December 6, 2012

What Gift Awaits?

    One month has already passed since we have been home.  Levi is doing amazing. Then again, he is an amazing little boy! His transition into our family has been incredibly easy.  He has fit right in as if he has always been here.  He and Samuel have had some normal sibling rivalry, but nothing extreme and in between there is much giggling!! The biggest thing has been for Levi to understand that Samuel wants to play with him and help him. Levi tends to push Samuel away when he tries to love on him.  I firmly believe it is a trust issue.  Of course, Samuel needs to learn that Levi likes to do things himself and does not always need brother interfering!! :)  As I write they are both happily playing with Play-Doh.

It has been fun to watch him begin to take part in family traditions.  When we sit down at the table for supper he now hold out his little hands to participate in prayer time.  At the end he wants say his own prayer. Same at bedtime. I wish I knew what he was saying!!

He is also learning to rough house! He loves being chased now, and will giggle with glee. He loves tickle time and wrestling around with Ethan and Daddy.  Sometimes due to his cleft his laugh sounds like a cry and I have to check his facial expression to see if he is happy or not....more than not he is laughing!!!

The other thing we have noticed if he falls or gets hurt he just gets up. No tears. No coming to mommy for kisses and loving.  Just an, "OW" and he is on his way.  Well, this is beginning to change. He sees Samuel and Meg come to me for comfort and will mimic them, even when there is nothing wrong. Of course we make a big fuss so he knows he can come to us for comfort.

Levi is a very affectionate little guy. Loves to be held,  give or blow kisses, and give hugs. Loves to rock and sing songs. Loves to sit on our laps and read books.  He does not like mommy to be too far out of sight, though!  And he will tell you, "I love you."
Honestly, we were prepared for a longer, harder transition and several months of finding our new norm, but our new norm just happened with his arrival.  It was like he was always here.  I should known that this would be the case.  God led us to this adoption. He led us to Levi. So why would I expect a bumpy transition?  God does not call us to something that we can not handle. He does not call us to do something that will disrupt our family or cause disunity.  His desire is to bless us. To draw us closer to Him. Sometimes we have to take that first step. To step out in faith knowing that His blessing lays ahead.  God has given us a wonderful gift in Levi.  We had to take the first step in order to receive our gift.  God was holding it out to us but we had to take it from Him.  I am so glad we trusted God, because I can not imagine our family without this little man.  God has a gift for each of us. His biggest gift was that of His son, Jesus.  His gift of forgiveness and salvation.  Have you taken that first step to receive His gift?  He is holding it out to each of us.  All you have to do is ask and receive. 

If you have, what other gifts does He have for you?  Is He holding out a gift that you have not yet taken the step to receive?  We are thankful for the gift God gave us when He chose us to be Levi's parents!! 

I had to include this last picture. We set up the nativity and I was explaining it to Levi, who was quite intrigued.  He loved holding each of the pieces  When I set him down he ran out and got his cement truck and put it in the manager with baby Jesus.  His gift to the baby. It has since been removed because, after all, a 3 year old has many things to build and is in need of a cement truck! Merry Christmas!!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Catching Up

This past week has been filled with lots of fun and many appointments.  I will try and summarize all we know about Levi's health and some of his previous firsts with you.

11/12/12 Levi had his cardiology appointment including an EKG and echo cardiogram . We learned that Levi's heart is very strong but, structurally, very complicated.   Basically, Levi has 2 holes in his heart that are large and running into each other. This creates one large open space instead of a heart that has two sides. He also has only one valve that controls the blood going in and out. The blood tends to swoosh around and not get pumped out.  Unfortunately, his pulmonary artery is also VERY narrow which does not allow the blood to flow through freely. Instead it comes through in drops, meaning his lungs do not get the blood that they need.   A heart cathe will help determine the severity of his condition and help the doctors develop a treatment plan for Levi.  This plan will be to help his heart last for as long as possible. Levi's condition is not one that can just be fixed.   At some point in Levi's life he will need a heart transplant.  We ask for your prayers for Levi and for the doctors wisdom as they determine the best plan for Levi. 

11/14/12. Levi went to Wednesday church for first time.  We knew so many people were excited to meet him and thought that if we went on Wednesday it would be a smaller crowd and then Sunday came around half the people would have already met him.  Well, Levi LOVED it!!!  He was so funny and animated with everyone.  We were surprised when he reached his arms out to Pastor Jason to be held, but when Jason tried, Levi changed his mind. We decided he was teasing Jason because he did this 3-4 times to the poor guy.   Next, Pastor David came to see him and Levi went right to him! We were really surprised! He let no one else hold him that evening, unless it was Mom, dad, or Pastor David.   By the end of the evening he was down wanting to play with the other kids. They were playing basketball and while he tried so hard to play, we worried because the increased activity had him breathing and coughing really hard.  Hopefully,after surgery be will be able to play more. Without stressing his body.  I am so thankful for the love and support we and Levi have received from our church.  I am also thankful to live in a country were people accept differences and don't shun a person for looking different.  In china, people were quite rude about Levi's  clefts.  They view it as a curse and bad luck.  They would look at him and gawk....some would point and laugh.  It was hard to watch.  Hard To remain silent.  Here, in America we have experienced nothing but kindness. Now I know there will be "those" people. There always are. But as a whole we have only experienced excitement and encouraging words. Each day Levi comes out of his shell a little bit more. Blossoming into a playful, happy, ornery little boy. The change in him the past few days has been amazing! And I know he did so well at church because of all the love he felt when he walked through those doors!  

11/16/12 Today we had the IA clinic. Levi saw a Speech therapist, dietitian  physical therapist, psychologist, and a doctor.  He received a second TB test and a flu shot.  The poor little guy had to give a good amount of blood as well.  He is such a brave little guy. Everyone was really surprised at how well Levi does eating and speaking.  He has no delays with receptive language but is delayed with expressive due to his cleft. There are just some sounds he can not make because structurally things are not there to allow certain sounds to be made.  No delays were found developmentally either.  So, only speech will be needed but not until the clefts are repaired.  They were also pleased with how well Levi has attached to Mark and I.  And how well he does considering his condition.  The doctor ordered an x ray of his chest and an ultrasound to determine how his lungs are and if he has a spleen.

11/18/12. Today we went grocery shopping for the first time.  Levi loved it! He kept pointing to all the food and wanting it in the cart. When I would put something in the cart he would clap and ask for it to be placed on his lap! He was quite buried by the end of the trip but very happy as well.

11/19/12 We were back at Children's today for his TB test reading, hearing test, and ultrasound. TB test came back clear so that was good.  He failed his hearing test more than likely due to fluid on his eardrum. This will be further evaluated, but it seems our little guy  may also need tubes put in his ears. Thankfully, we all know that he can hear it is probably just muffled. The ultrasound confirmed Levi  has no spleen.  A CT may be done to see if there are baby spleens formed as this sometimes occurs with Asplenia.  All his other organs seem to be in place! Now to find out how his lungs are and his trachea. We are scheduled for the ENT  December 7th. This is a consultation with surgery on the 13th. On the 13th, they will be scoping the trachea, possibly repairing it if need be, and doing the heart cathe.  We may discuss the possibility of putting in the ear tubes this day as well.  Please pray that the tracheal stenosis is mild and does not need to be repaired and for Levi's lung pressures to be below 16. 

For those of you wondering, YES, we knew ALL of these issues when we asked for Levi's referral. None of this is a surprise for us and the outcome is not a surprise to our Lord. We know He will be with us, and Levi, as we walk this road together to heal Levi's heart! 

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! We have much to be thankful for! God Bless! 

Monday, November 12, 2012

Two Weeks Since Family Day

Levi has been us 2 weeks today! Each day he becomes a little less reserved.  He has fit right into our family and his transition has been easy.  I know all the prayers have helped him transition so well.  He is a very brave little guy!  He has a very strong will, which I am sure has served him well given his special needs. He had the will to fight. To push on.   It has been fun to watch this serious little guy learn to have fun. He is becoming quite the little tease.  Below are some tid bits we have discovered about Levi.

Levi likes:
Reading books
Chocolate (not sure he should eat this due to his heart so very limited much to his dismay)
Singing (especially Wheels on the Bus)
Being held
Looking at photos
Play dough 

Levi dislikes:
Afternoon naps
Our cat (although, he started warming up to her yesterday)
The other kids rough housing.  (It has been interesting to watch Levi as the kids all wrestle around and jump on daddy.  He goes up and shakes his finger saying, " No No." But they do not stop. He just stands back looking concerned.   I can't wait for the day he knows this is fun!!)

I am amazed at how brave this little guy is.  To leave everything he knows. To travel across the world with 6 strangers. To trust us enough to take care of him.  He, truely is amazing. He is so full of life and joy.  We all love him dearly and he is such a blessing to us.

We would like to ask for prayers for him.  We began his cardiology testing today. It's not good, which we knew, but still, it's hard to hear it in person. The doctor will have a better idea what needs to be done after a heart cathe is preformed.  However, the cathe can not be done until an ENT evaluates his trachea. They need to determine if the can intubate him safely due to tracheal stenosis that was caused by his first surgery in China. Please be praying that the stenosis is mild and he will not need to have surgery on that as well.   We have no doubt that God has big plans for Levi. We also know that the Lord heals. 

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Finding Levi

December 9th I saw my son for the first time on an agency photo listing. It's that moment one can not explain except to another adoptive parent,who has experienced firsthand how God just whispers in your ear, "That's your child." And the love you feel is almost instant. I had been feeling for the past year the Lord was calling us to adopt again. He had made 2 things clear to me. One, the child would be a toddler boy. Two, his name would be Levi. I knew that name came from the Lord because I just had never really considered that name. But when I looked it's meaning up it meant "joined in harmony." I thought, that's cool. God is reassuring us this child will join our family and fit right in. We had worried about the timing in that our youngest son had only been home 2 years. It was like God was saying, "Its OK. I've got this." So in November 2011, I started researching agencies for another Taiwan adoption. Doors kept closing and I just didn't understand why. My last attempt was with AGCI. They reassured me I could adopt from Taiwan through them, but we had to wait until their program opened back up. They also asked if we had considered China. I said no. We wanted Taiwan because that was where Samuel was from. I decided I would fill out their Pre application so I could keep an eye on their photo listing. The way I saw it, we were looking for a toddler boy from Taiwan, so if I stayed on top of their photo list I would see all the toddler boys from Taiwan listed. So on December 9th, I logged in to see if there were any Taiwan kiddos. The first face I saw was Long Hai's. I knew he was ours. I saw he was from China, but felt peace about that. I saw he had a cleft lip and palate and thought, we can handle that. I requested his file that day. After reading his medical I thought, "Lord, I obviously heard you wrong. This little guy has a severe heart condition. We can not handle that." I put his file aside. But Long Hai never left my mind, or heart. On January 25th, after thinking about Long Hai everyday, I went back to the site to see if he was still available. There was a new picture of him. I contacted the agency and asked if they had new medical information on him as well. They said no, but that he was staying at NDFH in Beijing. I instantly googled that and found the NDFH blog. And would you believe the first name I clicked on, Anton, was Long Hai. Again, God was whispering, "He is yours." I contacted NDFH to get some information but was told they were not able to give out medical information, but that I could request info from the orphanage through our agency. So I did just that, but was told not to get my hopes up in that the orphanages do not always get back to you and if they do it can be weeks. The next day, 2/1/12, I awoke to an email that my request was answered and that they had never seen a request answered so fast. Another open door. On 2/2/12, I decide to join a Chinese heart yahoo group so I could ask if anyone had heard of this heart condition and how serious it was. About an hour later a girl emailed me saying her family was adopting a little girl with almost the exact heart condition. She went on to share how serious and life threatening this condition is. I thanked her for her honesty but said we can't do this. It is too serious. But as I was writing the words I was heart broken. In my heart I knew. I knew he was ours. On 2/3/12 I woke up with a strong sense to email this young girl Long Hai's picture. I was not sure why I felt this way, but I learned long ago not to ignore this feeling. So, I got out of bed and went down to the computer, uploaded his photo, and emailed it. It was not 30 minutes later she responded saying she had lived with Long Hai all last summer. How sweet he was and that the little girl her parents were adopting was from this foster home too and she and Long Hai were best friends. I broke at that point. God had gotten through. Long Hai was ours. God knows all of Long Hai's needs. He knows every hair on his head. He has watched and protected his dear life from the moment of conception. He knows our family. He knows what we can handle and what we can't. I had been praying for clear direction. God had been giving it. I had been scared saying, "I can't." God was saying, "You can." I instantly emailed my husband  Long Hai's photo asking him to pray for this little boy. Not necessarily to adopt but just to pray for him.  Within minutes Mark responded back, "What do we have to do?" Ok, that was not what I was expecting either. Doors just kept opening and everything was falling into place. On 3/6/12, we called the agency and said we wanted to adopt Long Hai. We filled out the application and things started moving.....until they realized Samuel and Long Hai were only 3 months apart. On 2/7/12 we were denied. The lady I had been working with felt awful and said they should have noticed this with the pre application, but had somehow missed it. The issue was we had adopted Samuel 2 years ago from Taiwan and he is only 3 months older than Long Hai. They said it was not good to "artificially twin" children. We reassured them that this was not our intent and due to birth dates Samuel would be in Kindergarten a full year ahead of Long Hai. She said maybe we could write a letter to the head social worker and plead our case. We wrote the letter and emailed it out that night. We heard nothing on the 8th. I fasted on the 9th. On the 10th, we were again denied. There were 4 other families that were interested in Long Hai and did not have the "artificial twinning" issue. So they felt it would be best to pursue them. Our hearts were broken. I didn't understand what God was doing. But as I prayed I kept hearing, "He's yours," and a peace overflowed me. I began praying that the Lord would chose the right family for Long Hai. The family that would be best for him. The family where he would grow and flourish and learn about Christ's love for him. Where he could get the medical treatment he needed, whether it was our family or someone else's. That the Lords will would be done. On the 2/20/12 I was called and told all the other families dropped out and would we be willing to talk to the head social worker tomorrow! Of course we said yes! On 2/21/12 we were approved to accept Long Hai's referral! God is so awesome! But the story does not end here. On 3/11/12 NDFH emailed me a letter from a lady named Laurie, who had been praying for Long Hai (known to her as Anton) since the beginning of February. Right at the time we were accepting his referral. Here is Laurie's story: "Late December 2011 I was sensing a call to adopt again. We just brought home our 4 yr. old little boy from Ethiopia September 23, his name is Levi Bedilu Hebbe. So to think of starting all over again so soon was kind of odd. I wasn't sure what it would all look like so with my husbands blessing I started gathering information. My husband was not sensing that this is the direction that the Father had in mind for us. At least not just yet... In the first week of February I received a random email from another agency advocating for children with special needs. The children were all at New Day Creations foster home in Beijing  I looked at the children and immediately was drawn to this one little boy... his name Anton. I knew my husband wasn't ready..and wasn't sure but I shared his picture with him...and told him I was burdened to pray for this beautiful little boy! I knew he would be special to me...but I didn't know how... as much as I would have dropped everything to go get him there were things the Father kept speaking to me that just kept me praying for Anton.....and more so for his forever family...whoever that was! So I kept praying...I have his picture by my computer and our little guy would ask about him! I started to pray for his family..for the family not to be scared to step out in faith to begin the process to bring him home! That they would trust Him to provide everything they would need before, during and after they adopted Anton. During this time my husband and I really talked a lot about adoption...and we still were on different pages....God had not yet melted out hearts with the same vision for our family. On the weekend of 2/18 12 my husband went away over night to really seek the Lord on the direction for our family! On that Friday we both fasted and prayed for direction...and blended heart whatever the direction would be! After that weekend we only heard God say "not right now...wait"... That next week things changed. In my heart I kept looking at Anton and asking "Father why wouldn't someone adopt him" He had been at the Foster home for over 2 yrs.... Then the Father spoke to prayers changed to prayers for the enemy to be bound! That the enemy would not be able to interfere with the family that was out there wanting to adopt him! I prayed for the supernatural power of our Mighty God to break any strongholds holding up this adoption! I continued to pray. Faithfully knowing that our Father hears our prayers and He is good in all things! On 3/9/2012 in a casual conversation my husband and were discussing adoption...wondering what the costs for adoption in China were compared to Ethiopia..... it was that question directed me back to the website with Anton's picture! I don't know if I can write or explain the feelings of love and joy and esteem for my Father that I felt when I looked at Anton's picture that day! I first saw the asterisk by his name and then the name change! Oh the name change! He was matched with a family and he has a new name! Levi!! The same as our little guy, and as I would later find out, for the same reasons! Joined in harmony! I had to contact the agency to share my joy and tell them the way God worked in this! it was then that I was connected with the director and Levi's mom! I am humbled and honored at the same time to be used and allowed to be a part of the journey of this special little boy! I am brought to tears as I think of how the Fathers love for the orphan has shaped my heart and likened it to His! I can honestly say that knowing and hearing God speak right to your heart is the most amazing thing I have experienced in my relationship with Him! I look forward to watching this journey continue...and to seeing God's hand continue to guide this special family that He created!"

I have no doubt that God used Laurie's and our prayers to break down the closed door. Prayer is powerful. God used a women's prayers, that I do not even know, to help advocate for our son. To bring him home to his forever family. We do not know the plans God has in store for Long Hai but we know God does and they must be big! Oh, and on a side note Long Hai is pronounced just how it is written and sounds very similar to Levi! God gave me this little ones name before I even saw his picture! Our God is faithful, and Awesome!

Jeremiah 29:11-13 "For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart."

Home Sweet Home

We are home!!! Levi did WONDERFUL on the flights. He stayed up for most of it. Maybe slept 4 hours of 15 hours. He is such an easy going guy. He watched movies, without sound as he didn't like the ear buds. He ate, and ate, and ate some more. This boy loves his food! And he played on the IPAD. He sat by Samuel and they had some good brotherly bonding time. Lots and lots of giggles. We got home and he went straight for the toys. Grandma came over and brought us supper. Levi was not too sure about her but once she gave him a present she won him. He stayed up until 10pm as I am hoping to thwart jet lag. Too tired to post picture but will add some tomorrow!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Day 12

11/7/12:Today our journey home begins! We will leave at 4:30PM for Hong Kong and will fly out tomorrow morning EARLY!! So we will see you all soon!!

Day 11: Last Day in Guangzhou

11/6/12:Today is our last full day in Guangzhou. In some ways I will be sad to leave but am also very ready to get home and get back into our routine. Thanks to all who have been praying for Samuel and Ethan. Samuel spiked a fever last night but seems a bit better today. This morning we had to be up bright and early to go to our consulate appointment. All went well and Levi will receive his visa tomorrow afternoon. This afternoon we went to the Shamian Island to do some shopping and eat supper. The Island is beautiful! It use to be all adoptions were completed on this Island. I wish it were still that way. It would have been fun to spend the week there. One shop we went into had Bibles and Bible verse plaques. I told the lady I liked them. She asked if I was a Christian and I said yes. She was, too!! Both she and her husband. She lives on the Island and attends church there. I am sure, like evrything else, the church is government approved, but still. When I left she gave me a jade cross.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Day 10

11/5/12:Today we went back to the medical clinic to have Levi's TB test evaluated. We are happy to report all is well!Then we went to the zoo. This was fun for all!! Samuel and Ethan seem to be a bit under the weather so be praying they fight off whatever they are trying to catch!! Later this afternoon we are meeting the two other AGCI families for supper.

Day 9:

11/4/12 Today we went to the Chen clan Academy and Liwan lake park. We got back at 1:30. Samuel was so tired he fell asleep on the bus. So we opted to eat pizza in our room for lunch. Levi has not been wanting an afternoon nap and seems to hold up fine. After Samuel woke up we went to the Friendship Mall. We didn't stay long as its basically an American shopping Mall. Next we went to Jusco which is a 5 floor Walmart type store. We were looking for a straight iron as ours exploded from a power surge. We also happily discovered China carries Oreos!! We ate supper at a really good Taiwanese restaurant! Samuel and Levi downed a whole tray of dumplings! The weather is still great here, but up in Hohhot and Beijing its snowing! Our trip here is winding down. Tomorrow we go to get Levi's TB test read and Tuesday is our Consulate appointment. Wednesday we leave for Hong Kong so we can fly out early Thursday morning. Chen Clan Academy
Our guide Jack
Ship made of Ivory and bone
Liwan Lake Park

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Day 8: Medical Exam

11/3/12 Day 8: Go to medical clinic for exam and TB test. Then jack came over to help us fill out our last document. Then we went to lunch with two other AGCI families. Came back to our room for naps and to get our laundry done. After naps we went down to see the waterfall and fish in our hotel. It was very pretty and peaceful. Guangzhou has many more trees and plants than Beijing and Hohhot. Meg, Katie, and Mark went swimming. The rest of us stayed in the room and relaxed. The pool is not heated and was VERY cold. (22 degrees Celsius) After they came back up we headed to dinner with another family who adopted from New Day as well. Being adventurous, we tried a local place. They were very nice and accommodating for our large group but we could only find 3 things on the menu that we were brave enough to try. (Didn't want to eat the donkey or pigskins). I think the waiters were laughing at us for ordering 3 things when we had 8 people! We ended up loving the dumplings so ordered more of those! Also got to experience seeing Chinese kids wearing split pants. This is worn instead of diapers. Very interesting to see but we were very curious as to where excrements go since there is nothing to catch it?! The weather here is great! Probably around 75-80 degrees. Tomorrow we meet our guide early to do some touring.
TB sad, but a lollipop brought a smile!
The hotel courtyard: