Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Do You Get It?

Since coming home with Hannah and beginning to attend all of her necessary medical appointments with her, I have developed a highly technical, mathematical litmus test to assess the suitability of each one of the new doctors we are meeting with.  It is called, "Do you get it?"  I know, it is so technical you may not understand all the various thought processes that go into it.  I use, "do you get it?" throughout our appointments and even use it to weigh things out afterward.

I begin each meeting to see if they just "get it" on their own.  Do they get that our daughter is adopted?  Do they see that her needs are slightly different than the needs of the kid down the street?  I understand that most doctors are highly driven professionals that go into the medical field to "fix the problem."  Often they get so focused on "the problem" and our cultural need to have faster service and instant gratification, they try to "fix the problem" too quickly and fixate on getting it done as soon as possible.  I understand none of them became doctors because they wanted to be counselors so they are not exactly going to be "touchy feely" and all connected to the emotional side of things.  I get it.  But do they get it?  I try not to judge them in the first minutes I meet them.  They may not get it and that is okay.  I am Hannah's mom and I get it.  God made me to be her mom so I could advocate for her.  I can help them "get it."  So I usually move on from the initial impressions and try not to judge too harshly.  No, they don't get it.  No, they aren't wired to get it.  So my next question becomes how open are they to "getting it?"  Will they listen to me and allow me to educate them on why her needs are just slightly so different, yet so important?  From there, I draw my conclusions.  Some might "get it" off the bat, with no educating from me.  Others need a touch in the right direction and rapidly open their eyes and minds to the differences.  Others, despite my advocating and talking and teaching, they just never get it.  The never get it ones are not the physicians we will choose for Hannah's care at this time (all perfectly good practitioners, I might add, just not able to meet eye to eye on the needs for an adopted child).

Today was no different.  I took Hannah back to UK to have our initial consultation with Dr. L in the pediatric plastic surgery department (I have to say, I am pretty proud of myself and how I've been rocking the Kentucky Clinic like no other in the last few weeks--that place is huge and daunting, but we're getting it down!).  This appointment was to address Hannah's cleft lip and palate, so I went in with my boxing gloves handy, fully prepared for the need to speak louder than the person.  This is how part of our conversation went with Dr. L today:

Dr L: So, we can go ahead and look at our calendars and we will get her in here for her first procedure in the next two to three weeks. (Pause)  Wait.  No.  Tell me, how long has Hannah been home with you?

Me:Home with us?  Six weeks tomorrow at home, in our arms for eight weeks now.

Dr. L: Oh really?  Wow!  That isn't long.  So, no, we don't want to do the first procedure in the next couple weeks.  She needs time to feel safe with you so she doesn't associate you with this new trauma.  Usually somewhere in the 3-4 month range in your arms is best, but really, we can do whatever you think is best for her as her parent.  I operate on Tuesdays and Fridays.  Pick a couple dates and e-mail them to me when you think you are all ready.  We can move it up or push it back if that becomes apparently necessary.  But we want her to feel secure.  If you want it done now, we sure can do it, but don't you agree, perhaps she needs some time?

Me: (Inwardly jaw dropping, praising God, shouting for joy, pumping fists) Well, yes, I would agree that her bond and attachment to us as her parents is of far greater importance at this point in time.

He gets it, y'all.  With no guidance from me.  He gets it!
I think we may have just found our baby girl's surgeon........
I specifically asked for prayer in this area, for a surgeon who would see Hannah and not her cleft.  Yet again, God provided.  I am so humbled by the myriad of ways He shows His passion for us and for Hannah.  Even in the details of a surgeon who "gets it."

So, what else happened during our appointment?  Well, we spent a good bit of time talking things through and answering my long list of questions I'd brought with me.  Lots of great information, lots of encouraging things, and some other areas that still need some prayer because this advocate mama won't go down without a fight.

The basics: Hannah will have two procedures done (should we 100% decide to proceed with Dr. L at UK) to address her cleft initially (this is not the one BIG one I had hoped for, but after talking to Dr. L, I see why it is done this way and agree it will be easier on Hannah and also on us as her parents).  We will first schedule her lip repair.  This surgery is generally an outpatient procedure, but based on Hannah's history of trauma, we will be scheduled to potentially stay the night for observation, however, if she does great, we will get sent home.  This surgery is usually fairly easy for the kiddos.  We'll address her gorgeous little face and do a little reconstructing of her super cute nose.  Best part?  NO no-no's!  No arm restraints!  Praise God for this little nugget of favor for all of us in our household!  Lip repair should not impact diet or anything too much, really.  About three to four months following the lip repair we'll do the larger surgery to address her palate.  Her palate cleft is wide, but Dr. L seemed confident that he could repair it.  This is a more extensive surgery and will require us to stay in the hospital at least one night for observation.  Obviously, there are pros and cons to so much of this.  The longer we wait to address the lip means her palate repair is that much further out, thus delaying her speech even more.  However, Dr. L really seemed to think her security with us was of greater importance...waiting to get started will not be a horrible thing given the access we have to great speech pathologists, etc.  She might have to wear no-no's after this procedure because she does suck her finger and thumb, but she may only have to wear them at night.  We will likely play it by ear and see.  We do not want her to stick those little fingers in there and open her palate back up.  No, no, no we don't.....  Another great nugget of information is that yes, I was correct to think we could coordinate putting tubes in her ears at the same time as one of these procedures.  We will have another meeting with a physician at UK to get a 2nd opinion to the ENT we saw last week and go from there.  It can be done and Dr. L was totally on board that less trauma at this point is a good thing.

So, what now?  We do a little more research.  I liked Dr. L today a lot.  I've come up with more questions and I plan to e-mail them to him.  I fully expect he will quickly respond (he just seems like the follow up type of guy).  We pray. Dr. L basically told us that if we want to go with him for her treatment, we just need to pick a date....  This is hard.  We adore her just as she is, yet we want her to begin to communicate as she so desperately wants to.  Picking a date is hard.  

So, the current, ongoing prayer needs regarding her medical needs:
*Pray we have insight as to the timing.  It appears to be greatly in our hands and we want to be wise--medically, physically, and emotionally for Hannah.  We need to do what is best for her.
*Pray we might still successfully advocate for her with the anesthesia team about her needs as a traumatized child.  It is going to be a big deal--I am going to be asking them to bend some pretty hard set rules, but I feel strongly they are necessary.
*Pray we get in to see the new ENT very soon and that it is possible to coordinate all of her care in one surgery.

For today, I'm just going to rest in this: He got it, y'all.  He totally, fully got it.  It also didn't hurt that I am fairly certain he spoke to her in Mandarin as he was saying good-bye to her today.....

 Hannah says Dr. L was pretty cool!



Nothing but big grins today after UK Plastics appointment!  (She's killing me in those sunglasses!!)

Thursday, March 19, 2015

More Than a Cleft

Our daughter has a cleft lip and palate (and upon further investigation it sounds like she might actually have a "double" cleft).  There is no mistaking it or overlooking it.  But she is so much more than that.  Yes, she has a medical need and yes, we are in the process of addressing all of it, but there is so much more than what is presented at surface value.  She has a mind.  She has a heart.  She has a personality and brokenness that runs deeper than what meets the eye.

Today was a hard day for me.  It was difficult for Hannah in some ways too, but today was especially hard for me...for the adoptive mama of a baby with a cleft lip and palate.

We have gotten out of our cocoon a couple times this past week and each time we have gone out, I have overheard inquisitive children pointing out Hannah's obvious cleft to their mothers.  One said, "Mama, that girl lost her lip!!"  Another said, "So sometimes people can have broken lips?"  These comments didn't bother me.  I would much rather people ask about it and talk about it over trying to ignore the enormous elephant in the room.  I am okay with that; being in public and people asking questions or commenting.  It is normal and okay.  I understand her cleft isn't something you see everyday and there will be questions as a result.

I have not, however, been prepared for the response in the medical community.  We have seen three doctors since coming home with Hannah.  I have been saddened by their inability to look past her cleft and look deeper at some of the more significant needs and issues that are hiding behind the cleft.  Sweet doctors, I am so thankful for you.  Really, I am.  You are going to give our daughter a life she never could have had in China and you are going to pour your sweat and energy into reconstructing her palate and face so she can speak with confidence and feel good about the precious girl looking back at her in the mirror.  Don't get me wrong.  I am very thankful for you and for all that you are about to endeavor to do for our child.  I could not provide a full, healthy life for her were it not for you.  But let this adoptive cleft mama say one thing,
"Yes, my daughter has a cleft lip and palate.  Yes, it needs addressing.  But please...just please, take one moment and look beyond that.  She is more than "just" a cleft."

Each doctor we have seen has been so immensely focused on repairing her cleft it has been overwhelming.  Don't get me wrong.  I get it!  I see the need and understand all too well the speech delays that will come as a result of prolonging her life without the repair.  However, I also have the social worker heart and mind within me and there is so much more going on.  Yes, she is a medical need, but she is more than "just" her medical need.  Wonderful, wise, educated doctors, please...learn a thing or two about adopted, fostered, abandoned, traumatized kids from hard places.  Yes, her medical need requires repair, but so does her heart.  Please, please stop for one moment during an exam and ask me about her heart.  How is she adjusting?  What is her trust like?  Is she bonded to you?  Do you feel bonded to her?  Does she seem to feel safe or secure?  Then, in all that, please take a moment and ask me how I, the adoptive mama think (or worry or have concerns) about how the suggested treatment might impact those things for her.  Will it reopen wounds of trauma?  Is it too soon?  Does the benefit of the treatment now outweigh the risk for damaging or setting back the bonding process?  These are not things doctors typically need to think about or discuss with patients, but when it comes to the adoptive parent and child, they are considerably real factors in the decision making process.  Each doctor I have met with has rushed past this.  Not one real look at her heart or emotional needs.  Each doctor has been an expert in his or her field and left me feeling completely impressed and trusting of them and their knowledge, however, they each see the need in their particular realm of specialty as the most pressing need.  They all seem to think their medical need is most urgent.  Must treat it now.  Must correct it now.  But really, is there harm in pacing ourselves?  One thing is for sure, each doctor I have seen has immediately commented that nutrition is not an issue for our girl.  She eats and eats well despite her physical limitations.  Please, amazingly smart doctors, give me the information I need to make a wise, prayerful decision for our daughter.  Tell me the truth about her medical need.  Be a straight shooter about how urgent it truly is, but then take a moment to help me balance that urgency with the urgency to gain her trust and faith in me as her mother.

Today I took Hannah to see an ENT.  I was not prepared for this appointment.  At all.  I was not prepared for the sense of urgency that came from it, nor for how desperately confused I would feel after it.  I truly thought we were going to just go, check her ears for infection, discuss the possibility of tubes, and move forward.  But then there it was.  The urgency.  This need is greatest, most urgent.  I really liked the doctor a great deal and loved how he interacted with both me and Hannah, but yet, that inability to get past the surface level need was ever present and it left me feeling like I wanted a second opinion.  I think I am facing a major wake up call and a tough blow about the medical field.  Doctors are just not really very educated about adoption or the sensitive needs of an adopted child that makes all medical procedures far more traumatizing and difficult than it would be with your "typical" child.  This is hard for me.  Hard for me to be comfortable with.

Today was also hard for me because I took Hannah to a new doctor.  New doctors mean there are new forms to complete.  I also received an additional set of forms in the mail to complete for a doctor we are taking her to see next week.  I knew I would never know a lot about Hannah prior to her arrival in our family seven weeks ago.  I knew it would be difficult.  I was not prepared for just how hard it would be to to take a virtually blank medical history form back to a receptionist and whisper through the window....my child is adopted and I do not know her medical history or the history of her biological family.  I am sorry, but I cannot complete anything on this form.  I do not know if her mother had cancer or if her grandfather had kidney issues.  I do not know if there is a history of asthma.  I do not know if she has allergies to medications, environmental allergens, or latex.  She is a mystery and I am so sorry, but this form is blank because I just do not know.  This is hard.  As mothers we know everything about our children.  We rattle off schedules and foods they like and what makes them tick.  Truth be told, I am still very much in the stages of figuring this out.  I honestly don't even know what her favorite foods are because she eats everything I put in front of her right now because she is afraid I may not feed her tomorrow.

All this makes me stop and think about how Jesus sees us and how He could see us.  He could see only our problem, the ugly scars and oozing scabs of sin.  But He sees so much more.  He sees our heart.  He looks past our need, yes, an urgent need and looks at the heart.  He starts in the heart and tenderly begins working away at the outward, ugly need to find a solution for our sin problem.  I am so thankful He sees me beyond my urgent medical need.  He sees beyond my sin and looks at my heart and transforms me from my heart outwardly. 

So, thank you amazing doctors for providing healing for our daughter in the days and weeks and months and years to come, but would you please stop just once and look at her?  Really look at her?  She is more than just a cleft.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Free

Hannah has been in our arms for seven weeks.  Seven weeks.  She became an official Burris seven weeks ago today.

The past seven weeks have been a whirlwind of messy, good, and hard.  Good is a big deal and we celebrate all of the good.  For example, on Sunday morning, she just woke up in her bed....happy.  She never wakes up happy.  I remember the days of our older three waking up and being happy in their beds and hearing their little voices singing songs.  There was peace in that contented time of waking up.  They knew they were safe and secure, that mama was here, and that they could just.....rest.  Hannah woke up happy.  She was content and secure.  She knew where I was.  She didn't need to shout in a panic.  Wow, that was something worth celebrating.  She hasn't done it since, but we know the contentment is creeping in!

What have  I noticed the most about Hannah in these last seven weeks in our arms?  Each day she becomes more free.  Free to feel, free to hurt, free to be joyful, free to have fun, free to be sad or angry.  Just free.....free to be....  In the early days there were so many guarded walls around her.  Happiness instantly brought anger; she was furious with us for evoking even the smallest of laughs.  She was not happy with what was happening to her and over all else, she wanted to make that incredibly clear.  There was no room for giggles and joy.  While she did have moments of fun and giggling in China with us, it was always guarded.  We knew it would last just a fleeting moment and when it ended, it would end hard.  Angry.  Now?  She is free!  Free to experience life in the ups and downs that it brings, but there is no consequence for it.  She can have fun.  She can be mad.  She can be Hannah and that is so incredibly freeing.  Walls come down and true personality begins to shine.

Seven weeks in our arms and she is free.  Safe.  Secure.  Loved.

Yesterday the swing was total sensory overload.  She tolerated only the smallest of pushes and wanted out right away (this was her 2nd time in the swing).  Not really happy about it and had white knuckle grip.

Today?  Today she is free.  Swinging high and having fun!

Sleep

Another commonly asked question of the newly home adoptive parent is, "Is she sleeping?"  I thought I'd write a post to let you know about how that is going for us.

When God blessed me with the gift of motherhood, nothing prepared me for the sleep deprivation aspect of it.  I struggled.  I mean struggled, tears and the whole bit.  With Jacob it wasn't as bad because he was our first and our only child, so I managed.  I had down time as he napped and our family was still small with just three of us, so managing the home wasn't quite as challenging either.  When the twins came along, it was a different story.  I struggled (no battled) the sleep deprivation portion of mothering them.  Two babies up in the night took twice as long to feed and on top of that I have this horrible disease.  It is called "I-can't-go-back-to-sleep-itis."  It is a terrible, horrible disease that should never ever plague a new mom who is up frequently in the night.  I have it.  Bad.  If I wake up in the night and do anything--talk, move around, sit up, etc. I am done.  My body thinks it is time to wake up and it will literally take me hours to go back to sleep.  Hours, people.  I'm not talking a long twenty minutes.  I'm talking hours.  Truly, hours.  Look at the clock and fight to go to sleep, knowing each minute awake is a minute lost before the twins would wake up for the next feeding.  You can ask Chris about this season in my life.  It was hard. He will tell you that once they started sleeping through the night (thus I started sleeping again), it was like a light switch went off and just like that, he had his normal, sane wife back.  Sleep is a glorious thing.  I need it.  Lots of it.

Going into this adoption we knew that sleep was definitely on the list of "potential hurdles" to be overcome.  I did not look forward to it, but as with the other kids, I knew I could battle through it.  Then we got Hannah.

God knows me so well.  He created me and wove me together.  He knows just what I can handle and what I cannot.  He knew I could not face the day time issues with Hannah if I was not sleeping.  Just like when you give birth, you have no idea what you might get.  Our kids, once sleeping through the night, are great sleepers and have been since they got through those initial couple months of infancy.  You never know what you're going to get.  I also knew, going into this adoption, that my past methods of Baby Wise and cry it out were going to be lost on Hannah and completely not appropriate.  She would need me to respond immediately, every time, to  build bonds and trust.

So, to answer the question.  Does she sleep?  Yes.  And no.  It is not nearly the sleep disturbance I had with an infant and it doesn't happen every night.  I find that hard days often correspond with hard nights, with more night time waking.  At the most she has been up three or four times in the night, but is almost always easily comforted.  Currently she still sleeps in our room, where she can see me.  This is convenient for me when she does wake.  She is just a few steps from the bed and prevents me from getting too fully awake with walking to her bedroom.  Sometimes she just needs  a shush and pat with adjusting blankets.  Other times she needs holding and snuggling.  Always she will fall back asleep in my arms and I have always been able to transfer her back to her bed.  She needs the night time routine to settle in and I definitely have to rock and bounce her to just about complete sleep prior to nap and bed, but she usually drifts off quickly.  I am thankful she enjoys the closeness of rocking and holding, as this is a great way for the two of us to bond.  Sometimes her sleep is fitful.  She has night terrors (only during nap time so far).  She will scream and not be able to be consoled.  She also has vivid dreams (or nightmares) that will cause her to have tantrums, hit, and cuss in her sleep.  Again, I notice these behaviors increase based on how her day went.  Fitful days lead to fitful nights.  Her night time waking was a non-issue until just recently, where she is now waking usually at least two times per night, almost daily now.  So far I have been thankfully able to go back to sleep quickly (I attribute this to having her in our room and not having to travel as far, thus not getting so fully awake I cannot go back to sleep--plus I don't have to be alert enough to make a bottle, change a diaper, etc.). 

Will we transition her to her own bed in her room with Grace?  Yes.  When?  I don't know.  As long as she is waking in the night, to be honest, it will just be simpler to keep her in our room.  She finds a great deal of security in her ability to look over from her bed and see us right there, near her and ready to console her if she needs it.

Will we use the cry-it-out method on her?  No, not right now.  Crying it out works on a child who is securely bonded and attached to a caregiver.  Hannah is not completely trusting of us yet and we need to respond to her needs as though she is a newborn infant right now, in order to ensure she understands we will always be there for her.  It is easy to get frustrated with this sometimes (she's two after all, my mind screams!).  The best thing to do is remind myself that while the calendar does indicate she is a two year old, we basically brought home a brand new infant (her needs and demands are like that of an infant right now) trapped inside the body of a two year old.  As her trust grows, restful sleep should in turn follow.

So, for now, sleep for me is decent.  Interrupted some, but still good enough that I don't feel the grip of deprivation setting in.  She has a rough night followed by some good ones, which gives me the chance to get a full night without interruption.  Overall the disturbance has seemed minor.

So, are we sleeping?  Yes.  And no.  There is pain and sorrow in the night for her at times, but in the morning, the joy returns.

"Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning."
Psalm 30:5

 Cleft babies suck their thumbs too!  She sucks both the thumb and index finger of her right hand.  This will be a major source of prayer once we schedule her repair.  Sucking brings comfort, which in turn, brings sleep.  Once the repair is complete, she will not be permitted to put anything in her mouth for a period of time.


   Sleep routine must stay the same.  Sleep sack on, DeeDee (special blanket made by Great Grandmama) over the sleep sack, lovie in crook of left arm and stroked by left hand, right hand sucking, bounce and rock from mama and off to sleep she goes.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Airport Arrival Photos

A very generous and talented friend of ours from church offered her services to capture the moments of our arrival at the airport with Hannah.  We couldn't be more thankful or blessed by the tremendous amount of time and energy she put into this!  We got our disc with all the photos and here are some of my favorites from the night.

The grandma's have arrived!



At the airport waiting for our arrival.  I think the grandparents were as excited as the kids!

 Waiting.  The cuteness.


More waiting...

They made these with help from Auntie Fred and Grandpa Ruth.  Impressive!

Immediate family waiting to greet us.  I...could...not...wait to see them all!

Cherished friends waiting to greet us and cheer us on.
 
This moment of coming down the escalator.  It would not move fast enough.  I wanted to hug my kids so badly and I was so overcome with emotion to finally be HOME.
 

This girl.  Hugging her.  Goodness I could have held her all night.


 As soon as we saw the lights of Lexington from the plane, the tears began to flow.  Seeing my parents just opened the floodgates all the more.



 I think my mom was about as excited as we were when we left for China.  She was giddy with excitement.  Take note of Grandmama's face in the background as well.


 Oh, how I had missed these faces.  I was so happy to see our babies!


 Stop it.  I simply cannot stand the look of adoration Grace has on her face.  So happy her Daddy is back!



 Jacob had been the "man of the house" for two full weeks and then he realized he didn't have to be grown up anymore.  His floodgates opened, which in turn, made mine open.  Our big sob fest together.


 My firstborn.  Goodness, I love this boy and I LOVE this picture.


 We did it Hannah!  We traveled for 30 hours and flew halfway around the globe.  Mission accomplished!


 So tremendously blessed by all those who came out so late on a Thursday night to show love and support to us!  True friends and true family, here!


 Welcome home, Hannah!  This is your family!

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Siblings

Sibling: (noun) a brother or a sister

Many people have asked us about our older children and their reaction to the adoption of Hannah into our family.  I thought it was time to dedicate a post to my precious big brothers and big sister (GeGe and JieJie).  
When you add a child to a family, whether by birth or adoption, there is a period of adjustment for all family members involved.  Our family is not unique and we did not escape this period of adjustment.  To some extent, our period of adjustment is still ongoing, but in most respects, as far as the big kids are involved, their adjustment period is winding down.  Kids are so versatile and accept things with such ease.  Hannah at home is our new normal to them and they have embraced it and really risen to the occasion.  I have been literally blown away by each one of them, their love toward Hannah, their ability to look past some difficult things, and their continued persistence and patience.  Honestly, I could learn a thing or two from each one of them!

Each child has accepted this new transition in his or her own way.  They are three different individuals and they have had three unique responses to Hannah's arrival home.

JACOB
Jacob is our oldest and most mature.  He is mature well beyond his seven (almost) years of age.  He has also already experienced the duty of becoming a big brother one other time (accepting TWO siblings at once that go around).  This was old hat to him and he jumped in with two feet right into the deep end.  I think while we were in China he felt some degree of pressure to be "the man of the house" while we were away.  This is a heavy burden to carry for two weeks.  It was also his longest separation from us.  While I think he thoroughly enjoyed his two weeks spent doing wonderful things with his grandparents, I think he was also very ready for us to get off that plane in Lexington.  When we got home he buried his little head on my shoulder and absolutely sobbed, which of course, made me sob.  I think it was his release.  He could stop being a man and be our little boy again and all was right in his world.  We were home.  After that meltdown in the airport, he was just back to happy go lucky Jacob.  No worries, no cares, and so glad to lead his siblings the best he can.  He was desperate for Hannah to love him and play with him.  Hannah wasn't sure what to make of her siblings at first and it did take her a little while to warm up to them, but Jacob was the first one she began to truly interact with.  I cannot tell you the joy it brought him when she began to bond to him--hug him and play with him.  I thought he might pop.  Jacob continues to be very mature.  When we struggle with Hannah he is quick to try to offer diversions and seems sensitive to when Mommy needs a break and will try to get Hannah to go play with him.  He adores her.  He speaks to her in this sing song voice that is so sappy and sweet (truly, it can almost get on your nerves it is so drippy with sweetness).  He loves to refer to himself in mandarin as GeGe.  He is proud of his role and so very proud of his sister.
 This was the first time she hugged him.  He was so scared to move!




JOSHUA
Joshua was already our middle child, sandwiched neatly between Jacob and Grace (only one minute older than Grace).  Joshua has always been our very deeply sensitive child.  He feels things very deeply, down to his core.  He needs lots of physical affection and closeness from his Mommy and Daddy.  None of those things changed with our trip to China, though the need for those things may have heightened a little immediately after we got home.  Joshua has regressed some in small ways--needing help using the restroom when he is fully capable of doing it alone, reacting (or overreacting) to boo boos more, wanting assistance getting dressed each day, etc.  He has been slower to figure out his role as big brother.  While he was big brother to Grace, they were a package deal.  He never had to learn how to accept her since she has just always been there (literally always, including the womb).  Learning to accept Hannah and the attention she demands from me has been more challenging for Joshua.  He needs a lot of extra snuggles and he often just doesn't want Hannah "up in his business."  He is cautious to offer Hannah much physical affection.  He also tends to be the target of most of Hannah's angry outbursts.  This definitely impacts the speed at which these two are bonding.  Joshua does not seek Hannah out, but he will include her now if she is around.  Just the other day he actually came looking for her, took her hand, and off they went to play.  That was a first and a huge deal to be initiated by Joshua.  He is coming around and they are both figuring out how this all works.  They are both realizing Mommy has plenty of hugs to give and while my lap used to fit the twins so neatly on it, there is still room to pack in three if needed.  Joshua is taking his time, but each day we see progress and we know that they will both be okay.  Will they ever be the best of friends?  I don't know about that, but I do know they are learning to love and accept each other.

Take note, he is holding her hand in the stroller.  She reached out to him for this and he actually obliged her!


GRACE
Grace had a special space in our family before we went to China.  She was the only girl and our youngest.  Not only our only girl, but she was the only girl in the entire extended family.  She knew she held a spot very different from that of her brothers.  Honestly, I worried the most about Grace when we began this adoption process.  She loves her Mommy and struggled at times to even share me with Joshua.  I wasn't sure how that would play out once we got home with Hannah.  In the very first early days there were some disappointments for Grace to overcome.  In her little mind, she had built Hannah up to be something that she just wasn't quite ready to be yet and that disappointed Grace.  She was sad Hannah wasn't sleeping in her room, in their bunk beds yet.  She was sad Hannah wouldn't play with her right off the bat.  She did not like to see Hannah grieve, especially when she was angry.  Hannah's screaming scared Grace's sensitive little heart and would often cause her to cry, too.  In those first few days home Grace cried a good bit and required a lot of extra snuggles as she went to sleep at night.  She came through that quickly, though.  Hannah's grieving lessened and became less intense, thus helping Grace not be so frightened by it.  Hannah started to play with Grace and she loved that.  Then something magical happened.  While Joshua regressed in very small ways, something happened to Grace in the last week or two and she has literally blossomed and matured right before my eyes.  She has stepped up to her role as big sister in a big way.  Suddenly she does things she's never done independently (shoes, putting on and zipping coat, etc.) and also assists Hannah with those things now!  She seeks Hannah out to play and loves to do girl things.  Each morning when I fix Grace's hair, she does Hannah's hair (seriously need a photo of this--so cute!!).  Grace still has moments when she wants my full attention or a bit of her space back, but she is growing into the most amazing, mature, tender hearted big sister ever.  I am proud of her!

Grace really steps up as the big sister to play with Hannah when I have to leave the house to run errands.  I got this photo last week when I was in the grocery store.  Note that Hannah is "wearing" her baby just as I wear her.

Overall we could not be prouder of each one of our big kids in how they have handled the growing pains of adding Hannah to our family and home.  They love, they tolerate, they persist, they show deep compassion.  They are amazing.  Like all siblings they can run hot and cold at times.  Yes, we have fights.  Yes, we make each other mad or hurt feelings.  At the end of the day though, there are always hugs and kisses all around and each morning starts anew the fun and adventures they tackle together.  I love being their Mom.  I am blessed and my goal each day is for my actions to show them that they are just that to me....a BLESSING.  I cannot wait to see where life takes these four.  What treasures they are.  Each one.







Monday, March 9, 2015

Cocooning

"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.  The old has passed away; behold, the new has come."
2 Corinthians 5:17
 
A little lesson about caterpillars and butterflies.  A small, vulnerable caterpillar eats and eats and eats to become a round, plump caterpillar.  Based on instinct, the caterpillar builds a cocoon around itself...tight and snug, protected from the elements, safe and secure, high on a branch.  The little home is warm, safe, unchanging.  Inside the security of the cocoon, something miraculous begins to take place.  Metamorphosis. At the appointed time, the once vulnerable caterpillar begins to slowly nibble away at the cocoon and begins to emerge into the world.  The caterpillar is changed...almost unrecognizable from what it once was.  It is now a gorgeous butterfly.  Still, the butterfly is not yet ready to take flight.  She must rest, fanning her wings, allowing them time to dry before she explodes out into the world as God intended her to be.
 
Cocooning in adoption is so much a reflection of what God's intention was for caterpillars and butterflies.  Our goal right now is to make Hannah's world small, secure and snug around her.  We want to tightly enclose her in what is going to be the most meaningful for her in the years to come; her immediate family.  Within the security of this tight cocoon she can allow herself to be fully vulnerable and undergo the most significant of changes.  Her metamorphosis can begin. As she begins to find a stronger sense of trust, a knowledge that I am Mama and Chris is Daddy, that the big kids are her siblings and that we are the most significant people in her life, her world can begin to expand.  We and she can slowly begin to nibble away at the outer layers of her cocoon and welcome tiny bits of the world in, little by little.  What does this look like in real life?  It means we spend a lot of time at home, just us, doing the same old routine, day in and day out.  There is security here.  It is safe and warm and snug, protected from the elements and the harsh parts of the world.  When the appointed time arrives and it is time to nibble away at the outer layers of the cocoon we will begin by bringing bits of the world to us, here, in our world, stretching her.  We will bring grandparents in and aunts and uncles.  We will spend time playing together on the floor.  We will still limit physical interaction and enforce rules that all food and gifts need to come from our hands, but she will begin to see there are others in our lives that we know intimately and trust, that she can also know and trust.  Here in her safe cocoon we will expand her circle and learn that love and security can come from family members beyond our immediate family here.  As there is security and safety found here, it will eventually be time to emerge from the cocoon, transformed, yet still delicate and fragile.  She will need to fan her wings and allow them to dry for a time.  She remains close to the cocoon, but outside the protective shell and barrier of its walls.  We will begin to venture out and fan her wings, finding safety and security in the world beyond the cocoon.  Eventually she will find the day that her change is complete, her wings are dry, and she is ready to fly.  We will rejoice in that day.  She may still have moments and hiccups in her path though, requiring us to at times, draw back in, re-enter the cocoon, and re-establish safety.  That is okay.  The day will come when that will be less frequent or necessary.  How long does it take or how long do we have to do this?  We are allowing Hannah to lead and also following strong suggestions from our agency and those who are much more educated on this topic.  Our agency suggested at minimum of six weeks of tight cocooning, but in an ideal world, their preference is more on the lines of 12 weeks.  We are just shy of our fifth week home and our fifth week of intentional cocooning.  We see the benefits from this already.
 
We thank you so much for your respect and understanding of the cocooning process thus far.  You are allowing us to lay important pieces of foundation that we could not do otherwise.  Thank you for allowing us to keep her close and build those bonds and attachments that will last her a lifetime.  Doing the hard work now, pays dividends for her in the future.
 
I will tell you this, God is at work and her metamorphosis is well underway.  She is changing.  She is growing.  She is becoming something truly remarkable.  She is evidence of His powerful and beautiful creation.  We cannot wait to share our gorgeous butterfly with you one day soon! 

Friday, March 6, 2015

Happy {First} Second Birthday, Hannah!

In an effort to avoid overwhelming Hannah on her first birthday in our family, we kept things very low key and simple here today.  We had a wonderful time together, celebrating her second birthday, her first among many as a Burris.  When we first saw your picture, our prayer was that we would get you  home in time to celebrate your second birthday with us.  We are so thankful God gave us this blessing of celebrating you today.

Hannah, you challenge us, grow us, love us, make us giggle, make us cry, drive us to our knees in prayer, and cause us to rejoice daily.  We love your pterodactyl laugh, your "clefty" kisses, and spunk.  You are smart, quick, and intense.  We love watching you grow, seeing you change, teaching you new things, and experiencing all your firsts as a Burris.

Look out world, God has a mighty plan for this little girl.   Happy Birthday, Hannah.  We adore you!

A cupcake to celebrate the first birthday we missed with Hannah...

She was so excited about her candles.  Happy 2nd birthday!

She ate only the icing...rather daintily.

For me? 


Gratitude

I have been truly amazed by the sheer number of people who have reached out to our family since we returned home from China.  No, not amazed.  Astounded.  We saw God's hand working so mightily throughout our adoption process, I don't know why I ever wondered if that would all suddenly stop once we got home, but it hasn't.  He continues to work and move and make His power known in all of this--in the beauty of Hannah's life.

When we got home the texts, e-mails, and Facebook contacts began flooding in.  And I mean flooding.  It has not been a trickle.  Hannah has touched so many lives, so profoundly, and many of these people we barely know.  What a gift it is for me, to be so intimately involved in this child's life.  God has big plans for Hannah.  Even before we brought her home, her grasp on the hearts and lives of so many people was palpable.  We are touched by the many who read our blog, follow our updates on Face Book and comment along the way.  You are our cheerleaders.  We need you and we are so grateful for you.

So many people have specifically thanked me for being so open, real, and honest through my posts.  If you know me in real life, you know I am open, real, and honest so this is the only way I know how to write.  I also know, that as I prepared to become an adoptive mama, I needed someone who was going to be honest with me.  I needed my expectations to be centered and grounded.  It was through those select few who chose to be transparent that I found the best preparation.  I do not intend to air all of our dirty laundry here, but I certainly hope to be truthful.  Photos and Facebook posts can leave us with such false impressions of what life is like.  Life is not a smiling photograph.  A smiling photograph is merely a brief moment out of the thousands of moments that make up our days.  We don't post the photos of meltdowns, heartache, or anger.  We all know those things go on, but yet, it is still so easy to look and compare ourselves, thinking our family falls short in one way or another.  My intent behind being real is to be a support to those who are in the same place.  They are not alone, they are not isolated, and they are not going crazy. 

Others have thanked us over and over for "sharing" Hannah with them.  My answer to that is that, Hannah is not ours.  She is His child and He clearly has a great plan for her.  Bringing Hannah home required an army.  I may be her mother, but she's not all mine. She is the product of so many prayers, so many financial gifts, so many meals and fundraisers. People need to see the fruit of their prayers.  So I share her because she is proof of God's work in the community of believers.

Several say they don't know how I have the time to write.  Truthfully, I don't know the answer to that.  I don't know either!  Writing right now is very therapeutic for me and it feels necessary.  There is so much missing of Hannah's life.  I want to document her early days as you would document the early days of your newborn child.  Writing also allows me to see so many spiritual connections that I would have missed had I not sat down and processed events through writing about them.  God is teaching me so much.  Do not be fooled to think I have "arrived" spiritually.  I flounder and fall and miss out on so many wonderful nuggets He has for me in the moments of day to day life.  He graciously allows me to go back and capture some of those missed nuggets when I hit rewind on the day and reflect in writing.

So many people are thanking us or telling us Hannah is blessed.  We want to say first no, Hannah is not blessed, WE are.  Secondly, we say, "thank you!"  We would not be here without you, so stop thanking us and take a look around.  There is a crowd of you gathered around us.  We see it and feel it and know your prayers are lifted.  Look around and see the power of this community that is coming around our daughter and pat yourselves on the back.  Thank each other.  We did it.  You did it.  Orphan no more, hallelujah, our daughter is home!  Rejoice in what we have accomplished together.

Your continued support has been the most amazing blessing to us.  We have sort of fallen off the map during this phase of cocooning and not one of you have forgotten us.  You write to us, you text, you call.  You bring meals.  Oh....the MEALS.  So many, wonderful, delicious meals that I could never dream of preparing right now.  Our fridge overflows with left overs, our freezer is full of quick fixes that are ready to be heated!  You love our children...you take them to co-op for us, you have them for play dates and outings, you invest in them at church, you give them the extra snuggle or read them the one more book that you know they so desperately want right now.  Wow.  You are truly amazing.

We are filled to overflowing with gratitude because of you.  Thank you.

The Women in China--Birthday Reflections

Today is Hannah's 2nd birthday, her first with us.  As with all of my children, I have found myself reflecting at many times throughout the day.  My reflections with Hannah, however, are different than those I have with our biological children.

Today I find myself thinking often of two other women.  I wonder about those women and I try to piece together a face, an image, an idea of them in my mind.  I have a guess, to some extent, about who they might be, what they might be like.  There are a lot of holes and a lot of blanks and I find myself struggling with that today, longing to know more, wishing there could be more.  Wanting that for Hannah.  I am so grateful for these women.  Today, I have the privilege of watching Hannah blow out her candles and open her gifts.  I get to see her blossom and grow.  I get to hug her neck and rock her to sleep.  I get to see her suck her thumb as she drifts to sleep, rub her boo boos, and giggle over play doh.  I got to read her a book and change her diaper.  I am so incredibly blessed, but it isn't without these other two women that I have these gifts of moments with Hannah.

Today, in China, there is a foster mom.  She raised Hannah for 15 months of her 24 months on this earth.  I know she is thinking of Zhen Zhen today and wondering about her.  They don't celebrate birthdays in China with the same fanfare that we do here in America, but I am still certain she is thought of as spring is likely beginning to blossom all around them in Yulin City.  To her I say,

Thank you for your sacrifices.  You gave your time, your energy, your resources, and even your bed to this little girl.  She is well loved here.  She is so smart and so quick and we know that she is that way because you helped her, to the best of your abilities, to learn and grow.  Thank you for loving her so carefully until we could get to her and preparing her to come to our home.  We think of you often and long to know more of you.  We wish we had met you while we were in China.  We pray for you and that you will be able to open your home to other children.

This woman is in almost all of the photos we received of Hannah from the orphanage.  We feel fairly certain this is her foster mother.


Today, in China, there is a birth mom.  Two years ago on this day, she felt the pain of labor and brought our Hannah into this world.  We will never know the events surrounding Hannah's birth--where she was born, if her mother was alone, or even the details surrounding her decision to abandon Hannah.  Honestly, even Hannah's birthday is an approximation, but we feel certain that it is accurate within a few days.  There is a birth mom in China who is thinking of the anguish of this week, two years ago.  I know her heart is empty and I am sure she has so many questions about her daughter, just as we have so many questions about her.  We will never know her.  And that is hard.  We want to know her.  We want to embrace her and cry on her shoulder and thank her for giving our daughter life.  To her I say,

Your daughter is safe.  She is loved and so truly amazing.  I wish I could share with you just how amazing she is.  She is brave and smart.....so very smart (I am sure she got that from you).  She is so loving and her desire for physical affection and closeness is so precious.  I love your daughter.  I hold her and rock her to sleep each day and I realize what a gift she is.  She is a miracle, so brave, a true warrior.  I am sure you worry if she is okay and worry about her cleft lip and palate.  We are taking care of her, she is well nourished and she will have her lip repaired soon.  She is gorgeous now, but she is going to be stunning once the surgery is complete.  I want to tell you that we celebrate her and you this day.  She would not be here, blessing us, if it were not for you.  Thank you for choosing life.  Thank you for making a hard sacrifice when you felt you could not care for her.  Thank you for ensuring she was found safely.  We will forever talk about you, think about you, pray for you, and relish the daughter you gave to us.  We are deeply and abundantly blessed because of you.

A treasured gift!  This is our earliest photo of Hannah, taken March 13, 2013, shortly after she was likely born.  Just look at that hair!


Birthdays with an adopted child are different, but I am convinced they are just that much more sweet.  There is just so much more to celebrate here.  So much of God's planting and weaving and planning to place Hannah in our family.  I do not doubt, from the moment she entered this world two years ago today, that He intended her for us.

Happy Birthday, sweet Hannah Banana.  We love you and we love the women in China who brought you to us.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

One Month of Milestones

One month.  Hannah has been home, in America, one full month.  It was one month ago on this night that we landed in Lexington, very close to the time I am writing this post.  It has been a month of extreme highs and lows, but they don't call this a journey for nothing.  You can't just "arrive."  You have to take the journey to "get there" and while the journey is hard sometimes, it is so worth it.

In this first month at home we have seen so much from Hannah.  Here are some of the highlighted milestones:

  • At Gotcha Hannah took only formula bottles and meat porridge.  Since coming home, she has dropped all of her bottle feedings and eats a vast array of solid foods.
  • She's started a totally new diet and LOVES it!  She tries every food we present to her and has so far really only rejected pancakes.
  • She drinks from a cup on her own!
  • She uses utensils independently and correctly (including the very non-Chinese fork).
  • She is able to point to her body parts and identify them when prompted.
  • She can sign Jesus Loves Me (she sings too!).
  • She will give squeeze hugs, tight around your neck.
  • She cut two new teeth!
  • She can stay at the house alone with Daddy for short periods of time and lets Daddy handle her bath and PJ routine each night!
  • Her tantrums are much less and they are changed.  She wants to be with someone while she grieves...not alone.
  • She smiles so much more often.
  • Her hair has grown.
  • She has learned about siblings, accepted them, and begun to seek them out for play and fun!
  • Her receptive language is booming.  She understands so, SO much of what we say to her in English.
  • She says Jacob, Grace, and Joshua's names verbally (we would be the only ones who understand her, but she says them for sure).
  • She mimics and tries to say many of the things we say.
  • She no longer frantically cleans her plate at meals.  She is slowly becoming more selective about foods and is comfortable with leaving some behind on her plate at the end of a meal.
  • She's relaxed enough to suck her thumb and is attaching well to a "lovie" over her snack cup (though the snack cup still travels with her daily, it isn't as much a security blanket these days).
  • She can sign so many words and truly her vocabulary through sign is limited simply by my lack of knowledge.  She learns them as fast as I can learn and teach them.  Her signs include: all done, thank you, angry, sad, sleepy, happy, more, please, obey, sorry, kind words, write, help, eat, drink, I love you, Jesus, Bible, yes ma'am, and water.  That's 20 signs and I know I have probably overlooked some!
It has been a trying month, but it has been a month that was totally worth it.  Sometimes the best destinations have the hardest journeys, but the hard journey makes the destination just that much more special.  We have the best seats in the house to watch what utterly amazing things our Creator is doing in and through her.  We cannot wait to see what the next month will bring.

One month home, with her lovie (the same lovie we sent to her in our care package to China).  We are so glad you are our girl, Hannah!

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Brave Girls go to the IAC

Today I took Hannah to the International Adoption Clinic (IAC) at the University of Kentucky.  Let me begin by saying we had heard through the grapevine that we would not be disappointed with this experience, so we went in feeling rather positive about it.  Our adoptive friends were not at all wrong.  I was thoroughly amazed by the whole process, the passion, and genuine care in each of the people we met with today.  I am so grateful we live in a city with an International Adoption Clinic, where the doctors are so well versed with common medical problems, tests, etc. for the internationally adopted child.  I wasn't completely certain what to expect today, but wow....it was worth the time, energy, and cost.

Things got off to a frenzied start thanks to pouring rain, horrendous traffic, and some hiccups, BUT, God provided for Hannah and I to arrive right on time despite some unexpected obstacles and we were able to be calm and focused once we arrived.  I was very nervous about Hannah's previous medical experiences--she had tremendous fear at the consulate medical appointment in China--so I asked for prayer warriors to cover us for this appointment, and He answered mightily.  Hannah took each bit of the process in stride and was ever so incredibly brave.  The doctor and nurse went on and on about how sweet she was and renamed her, "Gem" because she was just so brave.

The appointment and various tests took us four hours to complete.  FOUR HOURS!  Two of those hours were spent almost solidly in face to face time with the pediatrician there.  I am not kidding.  Quality, face to face time, talking with a pediatrician.  Hard to imagine we would have so much to talk about since so much of her medical, developmental, and social history is unknown to us.  The doctor was so thorough and got the ball rolling in so many directions for us right then and there--it was honestly a bit overwhelming to start seeing all these appointments coming at us from all directions.  The appointment today assessed Hannah in many areas and pointed us in directions for further follow up and exam.

So the skinny on her exam...there were very few surprises, which encouraged me and my ability to do my "Mama/Former Social Worker" assessment on her and be pretty dead on.  The physical therapist was very happy with where she is and saw no need for further intervention--maybe some focused time on some fine motor, but those things are likely due to lack of exposure and should catch up rapidly.  Her development all appears normal and right on target for a little girl of her age and with her history.  No major delays or areas of concern other than her speech.  She is bright and smart and all her little systems appear to be in good working order.

The surprises of the appointment....her finger.  Remember the finger injury from back in December?  We knew when we got her that it didn't look "right."  She also does not use it very much and keeps it held straight out most of the time.  We had sent the photos of the injury to the doctor back in December when the incident happened and she reviewed them, but photos can be deceptive and it is hard to tell the extent of things.  One look at it today and the doctor immediately suggested we run our own set of tests and even mentioned the word "possible surgical repair."  We had x-rays taken today while we were at UK and we will review those results in the next couple of weeks.  Currently Hannah appears to be a right handed child and this injury is on her right hand and definitely impacts her ability to use her right hand.  So we will wait and see what the x-ray reveals and what (if anything) we will do further for that.  The second surprise.  Girl has a whopping ear infection.  Like massive bulging in the right ear and so much wax in the left ear that even after several attempts to clear it, the doctor couldn't even get a look at it.  This was surprising!  About 1.5 weeks ago, we took Joshua to the pediatrician for treatment of an ear infection.  I had the doctor check Hannah's ears at that time because she had been tugging a lot on them.  Nope.  Nothing.  Of course this could have easily cropped up in the last several days, but there has been no real indication of a problem.  The doctor at the clinic said this is not unusual with adopted children--they have learned to be survivors and live through a good bit of pain.  They don't really get needs met quickly so they don't ask for help promptly.  So sad!  I felt awful for not knowing about it, but the doctor was very reassuring that cleft kiddos especially likely live with perpetual ear infections, so she probably doesn't even notice it that much.  We are treating the ear infection today and also attempting to clear the ear wax so we can get a good look when we go see and ENT.  The other surprise?  Her cleft.  Ha!  How on earth can that be a surprise, you ask?  Wasn't that the primary special need we were informed of?  Why yes, yes it was...however, her cleft, from what the pediatrician could tell, is unique.  All open on the right side, which is what we saw and knew about, but there appears to be a second, smaller cleft on the other side, too.  I haven't gotten a fantastic look in there myself, but I will say, now I am rather intrigued and want to check it out!  We will see what the pediatric surgeon says when we meet with him.

In addition to our appointment today we had x-rays taken. TB test done, stool samples sent to the lab, and probably about 10-15 vials of blood (I kid you not....it was enough to make an adult get squeamish and cry).  The blood work was by far the worst and saved for last.  Unfortunately for her it just wasn't flowing and we blew through one vein and had to re-stick her in the other arm, but we got all we needed in that last stick.  It took 3 technicians and me to get it all done.  She was exhausted, I was exhausted, and that was the end.

Now we wait on lab results to see if there are any other little unknown surprises waiting.  They have tested for literally everything under the sun, so it ought to give us a good place to start.

I feel a bit like my head is spinning.  Where do we go from here?  We treat the ear infection and schedule an appointment with an ENT within the next two weeks (she will likely get tubes the same time we do her cleft surgery).  We follow up with our regular pediatrician to read the TB test on Friday.  We are waiting for a call from a speech therapist who is great with cleft children and will take whatever appointment they give us (she is booked till June, but is going to fit Hannah in prior to that!).  We meet with the surgeon to handle her cleft at the end of this month and will discuss options regarding the timing of her procedures.  We are waiting to hear about the x-ray and if surgery is indicated, there is a good chance we can use the same pediatric plastic surgeon who will handle her cleft.  I don't know if we could do that procedure the same day as the cleft surgery, if it is warranted.  We wait for blood and stool results to see if we have any other areas of concern (parasites, TB, anemia, etc.).  We schedule an appointment with the pediatric dentist immediately after our consult with the cleft surgeon if dental work is indicated prior to the surgery.  Within the next 6 months she will see a pediatric eye doctor since cleft kiddos can also have their vision impacted.....  Goodness, that sounds like a lot, but I actually think I am leaving some things out!  It is going to be a frenzy of appointments these next several months, but I am so thankful we get to do this with and for Hannah.  What a blessing to get her the care she should have had years ago. 

We need to mention that we could not attempt to get through all of this without the tremendous outpouring of love and support from our family.  Chris' mom, especially, sets aside so many days to travel to Lexington to stay with the big kids so we can get to all of these appointments.  Friends continue to bring us food and meals for our freezer and I will say, having those things on days like today, when I spent four hours at a medical appointment and have a thousand phone calls to make, is such a huge tremendous blessing.  I don't have time to worry about dinner and lucky me, it is okay!  My family will still eat a delicious, hot meal tonight because of the generosity of others.  Wow.  It takes an army and we are just so deeply blessed by each and every single soldier in our army of helpers!

So, lots to think about, process, and prepare for, yet we are so glad we are getting things started for Hannah.  We cannot wait to see how God is going to use this brave little girl!


Brave girl, chillin' in the stroller, waiting for the blood draw.


Didn't even make it out of the parking garage.....

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Worth the Wait

Hannah has been in our arms six weeks now.  Wow.  SIX weeks!  In two days she will have been home one full month (just prior to her first birthday home!).  It is hard to believe in so many ways.  In a lot of ways it feels like she has just always been here, so it seems like she's been here longer than that.  Other ways it feels like she literally just got here and I cannot believe it has already been almost a full month home from China. Whether it has gone by fast or gone by slow, one thing is for sure.  It has been worth the wait to watch her blossom and change.

If you know anything about the Burris family, you know we are those classic "homeschool" people who have a total love affair with books.  We love books.  We love the library.  We max out our library cards and have to shuffle around what card we use to check things out so we don't go over our limit.  Loving to read and reading with Mommy in our home...well....it is just sort of required.

I tried reading to Hannah in China.  I packed two of our favorites that I had hoped with grab her attention, but she wanted nothing to do with them.  Too much closeness, too much slow paced sitting, not enough comprehending.  Reading was just too much for her then.  I didn't really force the issue.  Then we got home and it still really wasn't her thing, but boy the other kids wanted to read....a lot.  She wasn't too keen on that initially since me reading stole attention away from her, yet she didn't want to sit in my lap to participate either.  I finally found one book that grabbed her attention that she would sit through from start to finish (for those wondering, it was Pajama Time by Sandra Boynton).  She really liked the rhythm of this book and that I would bounce her in my lap according to the words and point to the various colors and types of PJ's.  I seized on that opportunity and we read that book many times.  Thankfully the twins had long discarded this old board book for more advanced picture books and so they were actually really thrilled to get it back out and enjoy it with new pleasure.  We all had a lot of fun reading that over and over.

When the twins were first born they didn't really love books, either.  And so I prayed about it.  I prayed for them to enjoy the closeness of a good book.  I did the same with Hannah.  People might think that is silly or crazy, but I know God cares about even the silliest of details.  I wanted her to love books alongside the rest of us.  And He heard.  And answered.

Five weeks in our arms, I took the picture posted below.  Hannah, sitting on my lap, not just simply tolerating the nap time routine of reading, but enjoying it.  Relishing it.  Pointing at pictures and resting so fully relaxed and close while we read four books that afternoon.  For me, I had waited five weeks for this moment to come.  I won't say she has the deep passion for books our older kids have just yet, but I see her catching on that books are really quite wonderful ways to spend time with Mommy and family.  I see the interest blooming and the comprehension exploding.  She has it in her, the ability to love books.  It will blossom and grow over time.  For me, it was all worth the wait.....

For the first time ever, five weeks home, Hannah not just tolerating a session of reading!  Engaging and finding joy in the story!

Security in Routine

The early days were hard, but then we started to settle in and find our groove.  Hannah got more comfortable in our house and I got more comfortable with her in it (knowing what she could or could not get into, etc.).  We worked through some of those early frustrations of being a new sibling and started to find joy in being together.  I took a big gulp and made the transition back to schooling Jacob.  The first few days of that were especially difficult, but as with all other things, we have found our groove with school again and Hannah handles it like a pro (most of the time).  Play Doh was a huge life saver for school!  And she has learned to sign when she wants to write with pencil and paper and she does a lot of both of those through our school sessions.  I passed the baton of mathematics to Daddy, so he handles all of those lessons on the weekends or a couple evenings a week and then I handle all the other subjects in the mornings.  It has allowed us to have a much slower paced morning, not having to get started immediately, and keeps my focused time on school shorter, thus allowing me to focus on Hannah as needed.  So far this is working for us!  Hannah seems to know the routine each day and thrives on it.  She's got the get up, eat breakfast, get dressed, start laundry, brush teeth thing down pat (and reminds me if I do it in the wrong order or deviate in any way).  She understands the clean up routine after lunch leads into the quiet time of snuggling to read books and generally falls asleep for her nap fairly quickly (she still has to be rocked to sleep).  Her naps are getting a little longer each day (security, safety, routine=more restful sleep).  She knows when Daddy gets home it is wild chaos playing time and has really started to warm up well to him.  We eat dinner and then Daddy mans the bath and PJ's portion of her day (and let me tell you, you do NOT skip bath with her).  She eats her night time candy (melatonin chews) and then knows it is Bible story time, prayer, and singing.  She asks for Jesus Loves Me every night.

For a child that has undergone what she has experienced in the last month, there is a lot to be said for establishing a secure routine.  There is safety for her in this routine because she knows exactly what comes next.  She knows when meals will happen and when "formal" snacks will happen.  She knows that in between those snack and meal times she has access to her Cheerio cup and drink at all times.  Changing the routine leaves way too much unexpected out there for her...she isn't sure if meals will still happen as planned or if her little world will be changing or remain the same.  For the most part, during this time of cocooning, it is really simple to keep her routine unchanged each day.  We don't deviate because we aren't going anywhere!  I will say that for a child like Hannah, who needs this security in her routine, even the weekends present a new set of struggles.  We haven't had enough weekends back home in America yet to fully establish the "routine" of a full week--weekdays and weekends included.  Saturday and Sunday are confusing to her.  She doesn't understand why Daddy is here when she wakes up, why our get ready routine in the morning is slower and different, why we don't have school, etc.  So there is some uneasiness still to work through on the weekends.  Once she has experienced more full weeks with us at home, she will get that natural rhythm of what Monday through Friday looks like and what Saturday and Sunday look like.  Weekends are a little difficult right now.  We generally see more behavior problems and just a more demanding attitude in general.  It will come.  In time.

She is learning that Mommy can do chores around the house and still pay attention to her.  She enjoys helping with laundry and like all of our other kids, she loves to help me work in the kitchen.

So now, weeks two through (just shy) of four at home, there is a growing sense of security and peace.  Don't get me wrong.  We have days.  Bad days.  We had one day that was about as bad as China days.  But we worked through it and the process of moving forward began again.  No more unexpected.  We are here to stay.  Safety.  Security.  Loved.  Cherished.  Forever.

Safety and security in her role as little sister.  Honestly, she can be really mean to these guys right now as she figures out how to play and be a sister.  They teach us daily how to be compassionate and loving.  True pictures of unconditional love in each one of them.  Really proud of them and the safety they provide Hannah has she learns about sisterhood.


 Safety and security in the expected each morning.  Helping Mama do her chores!


 Safety and security in the provision of meals and snacks at expected times each day.


Safety realizing she can be involved in Mama's chores and not be left out.  She loves to help bake!