Preston Party of Six

Preston Party of Six

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Two Months Home: "Honeymoon" is over

Recently I was out at a restaurant with the kids and a friend of mine asked me, "So is it as easy as you make it look?"  I tried hard not to laugh out loud TOO loudly, but I did have to chuckle.

Whether we're out in a public place or putting pictures on Facebook, it's easy to make things look "easy."  But if we're honest, is being a parent ever truly "easy?"  Sure, we love our children.  In fact, I often tell my children that I love them more than they could ever imagine. 

But parenting them--training them, nurturing them, disciplining them, and imparting God's truth into their hearts--isn't always easy.  At least it's not for me...and I'm realizing this now more than ever.

Two months ago today was our return home from China with Jenna.  We were welcomed by family and friends who were so excited to meet the newest member of the Preston Party of Six.  It was indeed a joyous occasion.   But once we left the Atlanta airport that Friday night, real life began.  However, like a new marriage or a new job, we had a little bit of a "honeymoon" period.  The older three kids were off school for the week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, so we got to be home together with no obligations.  Nathan and Andrew were smitten with their new baby sister.  Shelby got to catch up on much needed sleep.  Jenna got to experience what it was like to be part of a loving family for the first time and she seemed to embrace her new family so well.  She smiled, laughed, played, ate great, slept great, and enjoyed so many "firsts" that come with being part of a family.

And in all honesty, this trend has continued over the past two months.  Jenna's transition into our family has truly been miraculous.  We are so thankful to have her in our family, but I am also realizing that the "honeymoon" period is over...and it's not easy.

A few things in particular come to mind: 

Jenna is understanding English so well but I can tell she's getting more and more frustrated with each passing day that she can't express what she is wanting to tell me.  It breaks my heart to see her mind racing but unable to say what she wants to say.  And it is not easy for me because I can't read her mind and don't always know what she needs or wants.

Speaking of wants, Jenna knows what she wants and doesn't like it when she doesn't get it.  I'm thankful she's very much a typical almost-three-year-old (she turns three on February 1st!), but not being able to speak English makes this even harder.  Recently she wanted to bring a hula hoop inside and I told her we had to leave it on the back porch because it was dirty.  She was NOT a happy camper when she saw me leave it there and carry her inside.  Kicking, screaming, and crying ensued.  I tried to hold her and firmly told her "No kicking mommy!"  This continued for several minutes until she finally calmed down and let me hug her.  This was not easy.

And the hardest thing right now is achieving balance with four children who all have different needs because they are at different ages and have different levels of dependence.  Jenna requires A LOT of my time, and that was certainly to be expected.  Not only is she the youngest of our four children but she has also been without the nurturing love of a family for over 2 1/2 years of her life.  Many times when I put her down after holding her, she immediately lifts her little arms up in the air to be picked up again.  And as much as I LOVE holding and cuddling Jenna, I also have three other children and a husband who all need and deserve my time and attention.  So as much as possible, I find chunks of time to spend one-on-one with them.  Whether it's doing a LEGO set with Andrew, coloring with Shelby, or throwing the football with Nathan, I'm trying to make each minute with them count.  But even this isn't easy.

Why?  Because I'm selfish (I'm realizing this more lately) and want some time to myself.  It is hard to be honest and admit this, but these are things people don't talk about when they have children, whether biologically or through adoption.  Don't get me wrong, I wouldn't change anything and I'm not complaining.  I thank my Heavenly Father for ALL the blessings He has given me, none of which I deserve.  But when the rubber meets the road, I am still a selfish human being and it is not easy to give to others 24/7.

So for this reason I am especially thankful for Jesus' words in Matthew 11:28-30,

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

and II Corinthians 12:9,

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

Yes, the "honeymoon" is over but I am more thankful now than I was two months ago to have Jenna home. 

And to answer my friend's question about this being easy, the answer is a resounding "NO!"  But life wasn't meant to be easy...

it was meant to be lived the way God intended.

Father, thank You for loving me in spite of my selfishness and my many weaknesses.  I realize now more than ever how much I need You to be the wife and mother You have called me to be.  Help me to let go of the things that don't matter so I can focus on what really counts.  AMEN.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

All things are possible

I recently read an article entitled "Adoption Decisions"* about the fact that many wives want to adopt but their husbands do not.  Honestly, I think I could've written the article myself.  In fact, as I read the article a second time, I thought to myself, "This is our story!" 

Two years ago tonight, January 19, 2012, Jason sat me down at the dining room table to tell me that he wasn't ready for a fourth child and didn't want to move forward with adopting a little girl.  Hearing these words was HEARTBREAKING.  I had spent several months researching adoption agencies and had decided on the one we would use.  Jason and I had talked about adopting from certain countries and felt the Lord leading us to China.  And we were finally on the same page with regards to the age of the little girl being at least two years old but closer to three if possible (Jason preferred older, I preferred younger).  But aside from these facts, hearing my husband say these words was HEARTBREAKING because I longed to give an orphan a family and share the love of Jesus with her. 

I sat at the table in tears, crying and in shock.  There were no words to say.  And to be honest, I felt very sad, angry, hurt, and disappointed.

The three "tips" the author of the article gives to wives who are in the same boat that I was in two years ago are to close your mouth, pray with urgency, and wait patiently.

1) Close your mouth.
I think one of the reasons this article resonated so much with me is because of this "tip."  As hard as it was to not continue bringing up to Jason my desire to adopt, I literally closed my mouth and shut the folder of papers I'd accumulated on adoption.  I didn't keep talking about it, I didn't nag him about this, and I didn't judge him for not wanting to do this even though I felt it was God's will for us.  Now I will say that I was too quiet for a while, not wanting to talk to Jason about anything because I was so sad and disappointed.  But in time, the Lord helped me deal with this because I had to trust my husband's decision, as HARD as it was to do this.   

2) Pray with urgency.
While this seems like a no-brainer, praying for God's will and NOT MY OWN was critical.  It is vital for husbands and wives to be united in their decision to have children, whether biologically or through adoption.  I had to get to the place of praying like Jesus, "not my will but Thy will be done."  As much as I longed to have a fourth child and provide a loving family for a little girl in China, I couldn't override my husband's desires and had to surrender my desires to the Lord.

3) Wait patiently. 
Of these three "tips," this was the hardest.  Who likes to wait, especially when you really want something?  Not me!  I was ready, so why wasn't Jason?  I remember on Valentine's Day, Easter, Mother's Day and other occasions in 2012 hoping Jason would surprise me with good news, saying he was ready to adopt.  But I couldn't rush him and I couldn't rush God.  His timing is always perfect, and even if I never got that "surprise news" from Jason, I had to trust God and love my husband as I waited.  Easy, no.  Possible, yes...but only through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Over the next five months, this is what I did...kept my mouth shut, prayed, and waited.  And it was HARD.  Then on June 22, 2012, I was packing for the long 10+ hour drive to Ohio to go see my mom with the three kids.  Mom was very sick with cancer and I was upset knowing she'd been admitted that day to the inpatient hospice facility for observation.  I took a break from packing and Jason asked me to sit on the sofa to talk.  From the tone of his voice, I could tell this was serious...I thought he'd lost his job or we had to move or something else life altering.  But within a few minutes of him sharing his heart and how the Lord had not let him go over these past five months, he said these beautiful words, "I'm ready for number four." 

Once again, I was speechless.  I wasn't expecting this at all.  But instead of feeling heartbroken, my heart was FULL of joy and thanksgiving.

And I had GREAT news to tell my mom when I saw her in Ohio that beautiful summer day in June 2012.

Now here we are, two years after that heartbreaking night, and our sweet daughter, Jenna, AKA "number four," has been home with us from China for almost two months. 

Have the past two years been without struggle?  ABSOLUTELY NOT!  God's Word never promises an easy life, even when we do follow His will.  But He does promise us His peace for the journey, even amidst the struggles.

So what's the moral of this story? 

There are several things I learned:

No matter what our plans or our desires are, God is sovereign and His will and His plan will be accomplished. 

As you wait for whatever it is you are waiting for, cry out to the Lord. 

As you wait, pray, and draw closer to Him, your desires become His desires.

And whether or not Jason would've ever said "YES" to adoption, I learned more than ever (and continue to learn every day) that God loves orphans and He is the one who puts them in families.

I am so very thankful that He changed Jason's heart and put Jenna in our family.  It's true, "With God, all things are possible." (Matthew 19:26)

 *Article from HomeLife, LifeWay Press, April 2013

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Sleeping, Eating, and Other ADLs

All throughout nursing school, I learned A LOT of acronyms and one was "ADLs," which stands for "activities of daily living."  Things like sleeping, eating, bathing, dressing, mobility, and going to the bathroom are examples of ADLs.  So in order to answer so many people's questions about Jenna's "ADLs," as well as to document for her benefit and for my memory's sake, I thought I'd write a few things about what Jenna is up to these days.

Jenna is a great sleeper...hallelujah!  Seriously, since the first night in China until now, Jenna has slept through the night with only a handful of times waking up for brief moments of crying.  While in China, Jenna, Shelby and I all slept in a king-size bed.  Since getting home, Jenna has been sleeping in a twin bed (the bottom bunk), with a guard rail so she won't fall out under her big sister who is on the top bunk.  And I have been sleeping beside Jenna on the twin-size trundle bed that pulls out from under Jenna's bed...until last night.

Last night was the first night since November 22nd that I slept in a separate room from Jenna.  Since she has been sleeping so well, I thought I'd sleep in the extra bed we have in the office which is also upstairs, so I was only down the hall...but I have to admit that I felt so far from my baby girl!  I have loved being right next to her, hearing her breathe, and having her crawl into bed with me upon waking.  But a BIG part of parenting is "letting go" and in order for Jenna to continue flourishing, I knew it was time to take this step...and once again, she slept through the night without a problem.  The next hurdle will be when I return to my own bed sure when that will happen?

Jenna is a great eater...another hallelujah!  I have had two very picky eaters already, so the Lord knew I didn't need a third!  One of my concerns before going to China was how I would know what to feed Jenna since we couldn't speak each other's language, but this concern was quickly gone when I saw Jenna eat just about anything that was put before her.  And this has continued since coming home.  The girl has her preferences, primarily NOODLES of any kind.  But she also loves fruits, vegetables, eggs, PB&J, pizza, Chick-fil-A, and so many of our family's favorites.  Jenna does great feeding herself with a fork and spoon and drinks very well out of a regular cup.  One of the best parts of mealtime is all six of us holding hands and hearing Jenna yell at the top of her lungs "MEN" at the end of our prayer...we all get a good laugh from this each night.  And I doubt it will be long before she can say the whole word ("AMEN.")

Although speaking isn't necessarily an ADL, I get so many questions about Jenna's language.  Jenna didn't say many Chinese words so I hope that means it will be easier for her to learn the English language.  It amazes me every day how much she understands...she is like a little sponge, soaking in all that we say.  She has a few words that she already says, including:
  • Mama
  • Dadda
  • Bye 
  • Night night
  • No
  • Cheese (probably since I take so many pictures of her!) 
To help Jenna's language development and learning, next week I'll be starting the "Laptime" program at the library with Jenna, a fun time for learning and being with other two-year-olds and their moms.  Nathan, Shelby, and Andrew all enjoyed "Laptime" so I really hope Jenna will, too.  Then at the end of February, we will start "Puddle Jumpers" together, another awesome program for children and parents.  It is offered through the school system and teaches colors and shapes among many other developmental skills.  My other three kids loved "Puddle Jumpers" and I can't wait to get to experience it with Jenna, too. 

Bathing and Dressing
Jenna loves bath more hallelujah!  She didn't like it the first night in China, but since that time, it has been a joyful time for her and usually for either Shelby or Andrew who often fight over who gets to take a bath with their baby sister.  Because of Jenna's genetic skin condition, a daily bath is very important, so I am very thankful that she enjoys being in the water.  I use special shampoo for her dry scalp and sometimes special cleanser, but the dermatologist said that good ol' baby wash to make her smell good is just fine, too.  The key for Jenna is to put all of her creams and ointments on immediately after getting out of the bath so that it soaks deep into her skin.  So far she tolerates all of the over-the-counter creams and ointments that moisturize her dry skin very well, but there may come a time when we have to use prescription creams that may cause some burning, so we'll cross that bridge if and when we need to. 


Jenna is also very good at taking her clothes off and putting them on.  She even like to help others get dressed...I can't count how many times she's tried to fasten the buckle on my pants!  My hunch is that in the orphanage she was taught very early to do things on her own, and dressing was one of those things. 
Jenna definitely knows how to hold her own with three older siblings running around the house!  She is quick on her toes when she doesn't want me to hold her, which is often...but I'm not complaining!  Ever since we saw the video of Jenna on the playground at the orphanage last March, we were impressed with her gross motor skills.  She was going up the stairs and down the slide in the video at just over two-years-old, and now at almost three years old she is running, jumping, pushing strollers (we need to work on steering!), climbing, and doing exceptionally well for being such a little peanut.  And she has no fear!

Well...this area needs some work.  Jenna is still in diapers and doesn't seem very interested in changing this fact.  While some orphanages in China are very strict and quick to potty-train toddlers, Jenna's was not.  So once Jenna turns three on February 1st, I plan to take some small steps with Jenna for potty-training purposes, realizing she needs to feel safe and comfortable with everything in order to make progress.  Am I looking forward to this?  Not really.  But there are parts of parenting and life in general that aren't "fun" but necessary.   

As I sit here writing these words and thinking about all the things Jenna has accomplished in six short weeks, I can't help but think about her birthmother.  I often wonder if she thinks about her daughter and how she is doing.  And more than anything I wish I could tell her birthmother how amazing her little girl is and say "thank you" for choosing life for her baby girl nearly three years ago.  Watching Jenna learn and grow and develop in her ADLs and in so many other ways is such a blessing, yet my heart hurts knowing that a precious woman somewhere in China is missing out on this blessing.  So I thank my Heavenly Father every day for the opportunity to be the mother that Jenna needs and deserves.