Be Not Afraid

Today, I want to talk about our second son, Brennan, who is now 15. It is hard for me to know how my active Crohn’s disease years, played in on our sons development. They were so young, but also at that age where they were learning the most, and developing at the fastest rate that they ever would. Due to how sick I was, Brennan got more snuggles than anything else, and I often wonder if that is why he’s my most empathetic child.

When Brennan was a toddler he was a happy kid, full of deep belly laughs. He never stopped moving, he was always busy enjoying life. He seemed to think he was unstoppable: Invincible. When he was a little older, and learned that the world wasn’t always rainbows and unicorns,  he started saying a personalized bedtime prayer. He made it up on his own and faithfully said it every night, at least once, but more on less confident days.  My favorite part of the prayer was when he asked God to protect his family from natural disasters or getting thugged. We are a quietly religious family, and never really pushed bedtime prayers,  he did it all on his own. To this day he still says a prayer when he feels it is needed, although I do believe he has revised it a bit.

At the age of five, when Mei Mei came home, he was absolutely ecstatic. He’s always loved babies, so having a baby sister was the ultimate gift for him. At least at the age of five, because let’s  be honest, siblings don’t always get along. When she came home he taught her to crawl then walk. It was a very fast transition, as Chinese babies tend to be a little behind at first, but catch up quickly. He also taught her baby sign language. They played together all the time. They had a very close bond for years. When I see that peek out every now and then, despite the tension of one at the beginning of puberty, and one at the end, my heart melts.

At 15, he still gives plenty of hugs and says I love you everyday. He is the first to question if someone is okay, or ask if you need help. He talks to me about the good, the bad, and the ugly in his life, without prompting. What parent doesn’t cherish that time with their son or daughter?! He is also me, as a teenager, in boy form, new and improved. He reminds me of myself so much it hurts sometimes, but it also makes me proud. He’s a responsible student, and never has to be reminded of school work, is very funny, and never feels the need to come back at people with a nasty retort if they choose to be cruel to him. His confidence at this age far outweighs what mine was.

He has a love of life that I wish I had at his age, but I wish he didn’t worry about his future as much as he does. He has pondered over what he is going to do with his life, and how good his grades are, since 6th grade. I wish he had waited a few more years for those concerns. You don’t get those worry-free childhood years back. I know this is a result of our four years living abroad when he was between the ages of 8 and 12 (these years will be discussed in future posts), as those worldly experiences definitely influenced our children. I also wouldn’t change those years for anything. They helped form who Brennan is today.

Today was Brennan’s day. I am blessed with three children. They are my heart and soul. I cannot say enough, how proud I am of them.

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Bringing Mei Mei (Little Sister) Home

I’d like to say that everything went smoothly while we waited to travel to China to bring our baby girl home, but it didn’t. The delay in our group getting travel approval from the Chinese government ended up being a blessing in disguise though. Usually travel happens in four to six weeks. For us, it was nine or ten. The blessing in this was that on October 2nd, three weeks or so after our referral, and six weeks before we would ultimately travel, we had a medical emergency in our family.

I was taking toys and boys clothing into a moms-to-moms sale to sell, and stepped on uneven pavement. I was wearing one inch, chunky, heels and my foot twisted sideways. SNAP! In my head I thought to myself…..”Was that my shoe heel that made that noise? That had to be my other foot hitting the pavement when I caught myself Oh….that hurts! That was NOT my heel!” Hobble, hobble, hobble….nope. Hop, hop, hop; inside to my table. I called my husband, Billy, to tell him I was on my way home, and to get ready to go to the hospital. Due to a little luck it was my left foot, so my friend, Jen, helped me to the car so I could drive home. Before leaving the parking lot, I called my sister, bright and early on a Saturday morning. I’m talking 7am early, and cried all the way home while she patiently, and sleepily, talked to me.

On a side note, I’m not always the best about accepting help when I feel like it may be inconvenient. For me, or them. It’s all about efficiency. The most efficient thing was to drive myself so we didn’t have to worry about getting the car back home. Just like when I drove myself to the hospital downtown when I had the optic nerve swelling. That way we didn’t have to pick my car up from the local hospital, and when I drove myself and my oldest to my mom’s house while in labor with the second child, so she didn’t have to pick me up. It was out of her way, in my opinion. I was fine. I woke up with contractions 5 minutes apart, my husband had already left for work, and the hospital was on the other side of town. I probably didn’t have time for her to pick me up, nor did I feel confident waiting for Billy to come home and get me. Solution: drive myself.

Six weeks, a clean break, and what I liked to call my Franken-boot (removable cast) later, I was walking without crutches, and we were on a plane to Beijing. The only travel-related issue was that my doctor wanted me in a wheelchair for our one heavy touring day when we arrived.

In the hotel the first night, we had left the wheelchair in the lobby. It seemed easy enough to call down to the front desk and ask someone to bring it up to our room. It would have been so much easier to go down and get it, but the entertainment value was priceless. The front desk did not know what a wheelchair was, and transferred me to housekeeping. Housekeeping came up with a desk chair. Do you have any idea how hard it is to charade a wheelchair to someone who does not speak your language and does not usually deal with wheelchairs?! Do you realize how silly one looks trying to do that without sitting down?! What you think looks like the movement of your arms turning the wheels actually doesn’t. I probably looked like I was trying to mimic two-handed shoveling while crouching down a little. In the end, the sweet lady from Housekeeping was at a loss, so Billy went down and got it.

The next morning the group headed out for some sightseeing. There are several things that stand out in my mind from that day. Sitting in a wheelchair in Tiananmen Square just makes you a target for vendors hollering at you in broken English, and budding photographers anxious for a shot with a foreigner. The Forbidden City is NOT wheelchair accessible, at least it wasn’t at the time. There are many little wooden lips in doorways, and staircases. Get up, move chair, get back in. Over and over again. On a positive note, we did meet a wonderful family from Minnesota who also had two biological boys. They were very helpful with wheelchair logistics, and were our buddies for the rest of the trip and beyond. Finally, The Great Wall of China. Also, for obvious reasons, not wheelchair friendly, but even standing at the bottom of it was something I cannot fully describe. It filled me with a deep sense of awe, of the history and people that had been there before me. It was absolutely beautiful against the blue sky, and so commanding of your attention, and respect. It is a feeling I will never forget.

The following day, wheelchair-free, although our tour guide continuously tried to get me back into it every subsequent day, we were heading to our baby’s province. A short plane flight, and a quick stop at the local Walmart for supplies, and our group was on the way to meet our children. When I say “meet” I actually mean, walk into a room where they call out your name, hand you your baby, and you take her with you when you leave. Much like when you give birth, but a newborn is a blank slate, this child has some sort of routine already, and you don’t know it. They have an eating and sleeping schedule, but you are clueless to what that is. All the while, this young child is thinking, “Who are these people, and what are they saying? You look and sound very strange! This is terrifying! Everyone else is crying, I think I should too!” A short time later, dazed and confused, we all board the tour bus again. This time, we have our new baby girl. Three days shy of her first birthday.

We spent about a week in this province. The adoption was finalized the next day, and then we waited for her passport to be processed. During this time, we did some touring of local temples, and parks and sampled the local fare. This is where I had possibly the best Thanksgiving dinner I had ever had, and it had nothing that an ordinary one would. All Chinese food. All outstanding. This is also where we learned that a tour bus driver in China, can and WILL make a U turn on a very crowded and fairly narrow road, if he chooses. He will also back up through a light that he missed the turn on, regardless of people or vehicles around him. It was also in this location that we learned we were traveling with my high school friend, Leanne’s, mother and aunt. Her cousin was adopting as well, and had brought them with her. I had never met her mom so I had no idea until I saw her last name and asked if she was a relation. Small world. Amazing.

Our final four days in China were in a southern province where we finished up paperwork, and our newest family member was sworn in as a U.S. citizen. As soon as we landed on U.S. soil it would be official. This year long process was finally complete. We were bringing Mei Mei home.