Friday, September 16, 2016

Let's Talk Surgeries

Little did we know that Mr. Israel would be having three surgeries within only nine months of being home.  That also means that we've had tons of doctor's appointments, pre-op appointments, and post-op appointments.  Needless to say, we've spent a lot of time in waiting rooms.

His first surgery was...cough cough... snipping at his manhood.  I can't say any of the words out loud, nor can I type them.  I grew up in a house of girls started my life as a mom with a girl.  But, since this wasn't taken care of in the Congo, we did it just about a month or so after he came home.  He spoke NO English.  We couldn't explain a thing to him.  That was a fun experience #saidnooneever

It was during this surgery that the doctor and anesthesiologist noticed his loud breathing/snoring.  They recommended that we get his adenoids checked out because it was abnormally loud for a three year old.  That was the beginning of surgery #2.
Joelle was such a sweet sister after all of his surgeries.  She provided lots of comfort and snuggles for Israel!
Turns out that his adenoids were REALLY large.  He snored ALL the time.  His room is upstairs and I could hear him snoring when I was downstairs.  Sharing hotel rooms was painful... he was the only one to get any sleep, ha!  In March, right after our Disney trip, he went under for the second time to get his adenoids removed.  The recovery room that time was AWFUL.  He was so out of it and so confused.  He was screaming and crying.  It took about an hour for him to come out if it.  Thankfully later that evening he was all smiles!  Because he didn't need his tonsils out, it was a pretty simple recovery!
Yesterday he had his third surgery.  This one was the most difficult for us to pull the plug on, but after constant ear infections, it just had to happen.  He came home with a ruptured eardrum and ear infection in December.  We waited it out for a while to see if it would repair itself, but after nine months we saw no progress.  Every single time we went into the ENT for a check-up or to the pediatrician for shots he would have an ear infection.  Thankfully he has never complained about his ear hurting.  

We tried really hard to keep water out of it.  He wears earplugs and a band while swimming, I wash his hair in the sink, he wears a cap or earplug while showering... I mean we try really hard.  It seems like no matter what we did, he still got those stinkin' infections!  Since we have a pool and find ourselves at the beach often, we just needed a solution.  Also, we couldn't teach him how to swim because your head goes under the water while learning.  
So, after talking to our pediatrician and ENT, we decided to try and fix his perforation.
The recovery for this one is a little more intense than the others.  He has to wear this HUGE bandage for about four days.  There's no rough-housing, playing outside, getting overheated, wrestling, running, or lots of activity.  I don't know how many three year olds you know, but it's really hard keeping them calm.  He is a pretty chill boy... likes to sit and play with cars, but he also gets a little crazy here and there.  There's already a chance that the surgery won't "stick" so we are doing all that we can to minimize the risks!
This mama is ready for a life with no more surgeries!  The Lord has been so good to us during each one.  The doctors have been wonderful, Israel has been pretty tough, and he has always made a full recovery!  Praying this one goes the same :))))

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

More of our Visit to the Congo

I'm just going to be real honest.  It's been almost 18 months since we took these pictures and visited the Congo to visit Israel so I really, truly don't remember which day we took any of these pictures.  I would love to say... this was day two!  But, as I look at them, I just really have no clue.  I do find comfort in that though.  I often tell other adoptive parents that I know the wait seems like it will never end, but once your child is home it is hard to remember that part of the process.  It all seems like such a blur.  When you are in the trenches, begging the Lord to bring your child home, it seems like each day passes at a snail's pace.  Every holiday comes around marking one less holiday with your child.  You begin putting your time marker on things.  Surely they will be home by Halloween.  I mean, they've got to be home by Christmas.  And sometimes you repeat all of those holidays again.  It feels never-ending.  I didn't always see God's hand during that waiting time.  I knew He was there and moving, but I wanted things to happen on my time.  I wanted my children home way before they actually came home.  Through both of our adoptions, I didn't see the beautiful picture and plan that God was creating until way after they came home.  I trusted Him during those times, but it all made more sense once I was out of the waiting phase.  Looking back I can clearly see how God was working and moving through the little things and the big things.  I can see how His timing really was perfect.  Sometimes it just takes being removed from the situation to see it all.  I think that's why I can blog about it now.  During those painful moments of waiting, I just wasn't ready to sit down and spill my ugly feelings out.  It's almost like if I typed it out then the reality that my child wasn't home really set in.  So here I am, 18 months later, trying to recall those precious moments.

Israel was 2 1/2 at the time of our visit.  We had taken a mix of 2t and 3t clothes with us.  In the pictures he seemed like such a chunk, but once we were there we realized how much smaller he was than we had thought.  The majority of the shorts we brought fell right off of him.  We did make sure to bring a Longhorn shirt for his first outfit just like we did with Joelle.  I remember watching him kick that soccer ball and thinking it was just the cutest thing ever. 
 See his little puckered lips?  He still does this.  I think it's a coping mechanism for comfort... like a pacifier or thumb sucking.  He's actually sucking on his tongue in his mouth.  I didn't know it at the time, but that's definitely what he is doing there!  I can't tell you how many times I've said, "Israel quit sucking on your tongue!"  Then I think to myself how weird that sounds to say out loud, ha.
 He really just wanted to play with cars the entire time of our visit, but Jared put a ball in front of him every chance he got.  That smile.  Those cheeks.  I melt.
 Seeing Joelle play the role of a big sister was just priceless.  People would often say to Joelle, "You are going to be a great big sister."  I would always whisper in her ear, "You already ARE a great big sister."  I think what many people don't understand is that you become a family long before you meet.  Israel was our son and Joelle's brother for a year before he came home.  He was apart of us long before our Gotcha Day.  Joelle prayed for him when we just couldn't.  She was and still is the best big sister!
 She is such a caregiver and little Mama.  She scooped him up every single chance she got.  Having a real-life baby to hold was just about the best thing ever for her!
 She did share him with us a little, ha!
 It's like they bonded immediately.  They fell into their sibling roles without any effort.  I believe that God prepared their hearts.  He molded them to be a big sister and little brother.  I'm so thankful that the Lord was looking over my children when I couldn't be there.  I'm thankful for the protection He provided.  I'm thankful for the love they felt.  I'm thankful that they were fed and cared for.  You really see the enormity of God in a situation like adoption.  It was physically impossible for me to be there for my children while we were waiting, but nothing is or was impossible for God.  He provided, He protected, He made a way.  Goodness He sure is a BIG God!

Monday, September 12, 2016

Our first day in the Congo

Let's take it way back today.  Back to April of 2015 when we went to visit Israel.  We had three days with our little man while we were there to file documents.  We prayed long and hard before going because we knew it would be heart wrenching to leave him there.  As a family we decided that as hard as it would be, we needed to do it to speed up the paperwork process.  The Lord provided the perfect timing and seamless arrangements, so we just stepped out in faith.

It's a long journey to get to the Congo.  After 3 flights and a restless night's sleep, we woke up with anticipation.  Joelle put on her Big Sister outfit that we had been holding onto for quite some time, and we argued about who would get to hold him first (I won, of course!).  He was scared and upset for about an hour.  He rubbed his eyes, which we thought meant he was tired, but he still does that when he is on the verge of crying.  I can only imagine the overwhelming fear he must have felt as he was left alone with complete strangers that look nothing like him.  Thankfully after about an hour, he warmed up pretty well.  It didn't take long to realize that he loved playing with cars.
 After he calmed down and we made a little progress we walked over to a superstore that has an Italian restaurant... well, it was Italian when we went to go Joelle, but they changed their menu quite a bit since then!  
 We knew how to win a Congo kid over... just give them a little Fanta, ha!  To this day both of my kids love Orange Soda and will drink it down when we let them have it :)
 Of course we were all smiles to meet and be with the little guy.  It took him a while to feel the same way :)
 We just laughed and laughed at nap time.  We put him down on his back, he immediately closed his eyes... didn't move a muscle... and fell right to sleep with a car in his hands :)
 He didn't cry after that first hour we had him.  Maybe it is because we gave him powdered donuts and #allthesugar ;)
 And we did get a smile on that first day!  We spent a lot of time in our room playing with cars, kicking the ball, and watching movies.  Since we only had a few days together we decided to not doing anything touristy because we wanted to take in every single moment... not knowing when we would meet again.
 I just know that the Lord had His hand in every interaction and moment.  The fact that Israel would accept love from us, play with us, and look to us for his needs was just remarkable.  I still think about those days and smile because they were just precious moments that the Lord gave us in our children's home country.  I'm thankful Joelle got to go back and experience it with us again.  I'm thankful that Israel was able to meet us before coming home to us so that he would remember the love of our family.  I'm thankful that we got a glimpse of what life would be like with the four of us.
 Over a year later and this is what you will see him doing any chance he gets.  Put a car in his hand and he is just as happy as a clam!  Needless to say we bought #allthecars when we got back to the states, ha!

Friday, September 9, 2016

Christmas :)

At this point I am 9 months late to posting, ha!  But, let's back track and talk about what Christmas was like with Israel home!

First of all, I'm sure he had not a clue what was going on.  He hadn't been home long and our house had red and green EVERYWHERE.  Sparkly lights.  Presents Galore.  Big Fat Man with a Red Suit.  Oh my!  We couldn't even attempt to explain it because he spoke ZERO English when he got here.  Thankfully he did know how to smile, ha!
 Dressing up two children in Christmas jammies was probably my favorite thing EVER!
 Joelle had asked Santa for remote control cars for both her and Israel.  She was always so sweet to think of him even when he wasn't home.
 He does love cars, so this worked out perfect for him!
 Joelle was also stoked to finally get a trampoline.  We had told her that would NEVER happen, but who can say no to that sweet smile??  The trampoline actually came in very useful.  Israel's legs had almost no muscle tone and he hadn't ever exerted much energy.  The jumping helped him with strength and balance :)
Even though he had only been home a short time, we still wanted to keep our family traditions for Joelle.  We knew it would be overwhelming and a lot to take in, but we didn't want her to suffer.  It turned out being okay.  We just held him close to us and monitored the interaction he was having with family.  We had already asked them not to hug or kiss him.  At that point he was still learning to trust us and look at us as his parents.  It was an adjustment period for sure!
 Now looking back on it I just miss those chubby cheeks so much!  I'm so thankful for how far he has come, but that babyface is so kissable!
I'm definitely looking forward to this year because he will understand every single part of the holiday!  It will be like his first Christmas all over again :)

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Let's Rewind!

Let's rewind!  I'm going to attempt to back the truck up here and play a little catch up.  Life has been all sorts of busy since Israel came home, and blog posts just haven't made the to-do lists in quite some time.

Shortly after Israel came home we went to court to change his name.  His given name is Israel, but we changed his middle and last name.  We had to do this in order to get a social security card, passport, birth certificate, and certificate of citizenship.  It's really quite the process... lots of waiting in government offices with a toddler.  Doesn't that sound fun??? BUT, Since we travel often, it was important to us to do all of these things right away!

So here's our little family swearing in before the judge.  We decided to do this without a lawyer since we had done it before.  Jared did all of the leg work and represented our family... he felt pretty legit, ha!
 At this point Israel had only been home for a short time.  We pretty much had to tickle him to crack a smile, so in most of our pictures he is just as straight-faced as can be!
 We had our close friends and family with us at the courthouse for Israel's special day!

It definitely brought back memories of when we did the same thing with Joelle.  There's just something special about your child taking on your last name.  It almost feels as if those years of waiting are now just a blur... a distant memory.  The fact that the Lord has blessed us with two precious children that were once in desperate need of a family just blows my mind.  They are now both surrounded by oodles of people that love them so!!  I also can't help but to think about their families that are so far away now.  The love that they carried for their children as they had to walk away.  The hope they held onto that their babies would be provided for and loved.  I always say that adoption is such a beautifully broken process.  I do know that God gets all the glory for bringing our family together.  I could not have walked the road of adoption without Him by my side each and every morning while we waited for our children.  He helped me get out of bed when I didn't want to, provided distractions when I needed them most, and comforted me as I cried buckets of tears.  While those years were long and hard, I am so thankful to have walked through them because they increased my trust in the Lord.
So that was the day that we officially became a family of FOUR Lemons :)))