Saturday, April 27, 2013

Welcome to America, Connor & Cooper

Today was the day.
Today was the day that our Cameron has been looking forward to for a month!
Tonight, for two blissful hours, our boys were totally boys!
This evening, our sweet friends, "Mr. & Mrs. S" invited our entire family to join them at Blackbeard's Cove in Mount Pleasant for some good old fashioned family fun!
Just after we returned home with the two new boys, Mrs. S emailed and invited us to join them for a get together at this super fun family play place at the end of the month.
Now, normally, I would keep these big things a secret until they are a bit closer, but I did tell the boys, because this is one of their favorite places ever.
Cameron was especially excited and several times throughout the month, he has felt the urge to ask me, "How many more days till Blackbeard's Cove?"
Well, the day finally arrived and it did not disappoint!
This wonderful couple, who lived in China for 10 years, just really loves on our family, especially our boys.
They rented a room for us and spoiled them rotten!

Don't you just LOVE the Red, White & Blue décor atop the Chinese silk centerpieces?
We started outside and had a choice of two activities.  Our first was, no surprise here, the Go-Karts!  The first group to go was, Tom & Cooper, Cameron, Tommy and Mr. S with Sam.
Cooper rode along with Tom and had a great time!
Tommy did a great job handling that car.
I was pretty impressed by his steering skill at 8!

Cameron was also a bit of a road warrior!
Although tale from the track was that he crashed a couple times out of sight of the camera!
Our next crew were the older two boys.
What a duo they are!

Once everyone had a turn around the track, it was time for a little putt-putt.
This activity proved to be quite humorous indeed! 

Tom & Mr. S took their rounds a bit more seriously...

Had to show Tommy multiple times that I actually did matter
which direction the club points and which hand was on top!

Connor was perfectly happy to swing that thing like a baseball bat!

Our "leftie" was all mixed up!

And Cooper was hysterical!
He wacked that ball like crazy.
 His spent more time in the bushes than on the green!
What a doll!  Cooper was a bit "heavy handed" with the golf club,
so mama got to teach him how.
After we all finished up our putt-putt, it was time for some pizza!
and cake & ice cream

I did mention that they spoiled us, right?
Of course, no amount of junk food is going to compete with the allure of video games in our house!  So, off they went!
Sam and Tommy loving the underwater fishing game!

Where the older boys started and ended the evening!

Watch out!  This is serious business!

All the Chinese boys together in one simulator

I think Colin really enjoyed having a brother closer in age to compete with this evening. Each of them claimed a victory in the motorcycle races!
All that in about 2 1/2 hours of fun!
Thanks to Mr. & Mrs. S for the wonderful evening.
Thank you for loving on our family and giving our boys such a great night together!

Monday, April 22, 2013

First Month Home- Connor & Cooper

Adjustment is never easy.
We don't like change, none of us, admit it.
Well, the kind of change that our two newest boys have experienced is among the most challenging.
Even for the most well adjusted child (which internationally adopted children are not), moving across the world with total strangers who speak a different language and look funny is overwhelming to say the least.
In the last month we've had lots of smiles, LOTS of noise, and yes, some tears.
But, despite some rough days...
they are handling it like champions!

The new boys jumped right into their English lessons shortly after arriving home.

We started with Leap Frog.

I know it is a little young for boys this age, but I have found nothing else that does as good a job teaching the letters and their sounds in a way that is so easy to remember.

Here is Cameron drilling the new boys on their sounds...

We already had our Homeschool version of Rosetta Stone (English) so we added two more accounts on there and they began to learn how to navigate this program.

It really is very easy to manage and does not require them to understand any English to get started.

Side note:  While all 4 of my adopted boys claimed to know the English alphabet when they came home, they didn't know ANY of the sounds that each letter made.  What they could do was recite the ABC song.  That was it, so if you are in process to bring home an older child who has had English in school since the 1st grade, don't set your expectations too high. Start from the beginning.

Once they mastered the sounds of each letter, we start in to the K book of Hooked on Phonics.

 Again, a little on the young side, but so far, no complaints and they are doing amazingly well!

Now that I am back to work full time, Tom is leading the reading, talking and handwriting instruction.

So, what else has the Rylands crew been up to?

Well, there was Easter Sunday...

a short trip up to Granny's farm...

a few hoops with another adoptive family


Our first visit to the local
Chinese restaurant...

An arsenal of nerf bullets flying near and far...

Our first bike riding lessons led by big bro, Colin...

Lots of family movie and game time,
complete with hand holding and cuddles!



 This video is from our "game night" when Cooper and Connor learned Farkle for the first time.

A little silliness from Connor at dinnertime is a common occurrence.

This next video is a little slice of "normal" around here...
Look who traded seats with Colin so he could sit next to Mom for family devotions...

Our most recent family movie night was great!
Cooper came over and cuddled into the recliner with his mama!

So, you may does Tommy feel about this new cuddle buddy of mine?
See for yourself!
Another fun activity is when Tom brings the boys down to my office to say hello.
They just get so excited about coming to see Mom and sharing what they've learned that day.
The first time they came by, each boy recites,
 "Hello Mom. How was your day?"
(with big smiles on their faces!)

Tom is very pleased with the effort that they are putting into their reading, Rosetta Stone and their handwriting.

But, there is plenty of time for fun too!
Thanks to our dear friend, Ms. Julie, the boys now have a huge pile of Legos! 

Here's to hours of quiet fun!

These are just a few of the things we have been up to as a family since adding to our crew.


Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Older Child Adoption: Affection & Attachment

So, many folks want to know about how affection and attachment occur with older kids.
With Colin and Cameron, this took some time. 
In fact, a lot of time. 
It is so important not to rush these things and to let yourself off the hook if it doesn't happen right away.
As I look back on it, I realize that I did not have very realistic expectations with the first two in this area. I also didn't have much in my toolbox that would help encourage healthy attachment.

(This is my short soap box where I tell you how IMPORTANT your pre-adoptive training is!)

For those who have not adopted, this may sound a bit foreign to you and that really is ok.  I never really knew what it was like to parent a child who comes from a "hard place" before I adopted.

It looks VERY different than "traditional" parenting.
It FEELS very different at first too.
But parenting a child with a traumatic background (regardless of the cause) is all about THEM and never about YOU.
It's not about the perfect family photos, or what the neighbors might say.
It's not about your Mother-in-law or Aunt Susan and how they think you are selfish in keeping them at arm's length.
It isn't about the judgmental looks you get at
Wal-Mart or McDonalds
when your child is not behaving.

It is about providing a safe place for them to heal.
It is about modeling love through pain.
It is about fervent prayer that they will some day know the love of Christ who orchestrated their stories and who will one day make all bad things untrue.
Thanks to some earned adoptive experience and an amazing team at Lifeline, I feel much better prepared for however this unfolds, but I am also better prepared than I was before to intentionally create moments that can encourage attachment.
If you are adopting an older child, especially a boy, there are things that you can do to create a physical connection if they are not open to hugging. 
There is the "new fangled" fist bump. 
Draping your arm around their neck
for a quick squeeze
The pat on the shoulder.
The key here is to be sensitive to any reaction that shows they are uncomfortable. 
Keep it light and try to smile.
Each boy's needs are unique, as is their past.  What they bring into the family is
their own story.
It is a precious story, but it is theirs.
After bringing home 4 boys now from various locations in China, I feel fairly safe in saying that as a culture, hugging is not very common.
Even our love-bug, Cooper,
was stiff as a board the first time I hugged him.
To take some of the awkwardness out of reciprocating affection, we make it a silly thing. 
It also helps us not to take the reaction too personally.
Now, one month later?
Cooper is offering unsolicited "I Love yous" and reaching for hugs at bedtime and when I leave for work. He even kisses me on the cheek at bedtime which is so incredibly precious!
Connor, at 13, is in a different stage of showing affection. 
His is disguised more in showing off, being silly, trying to scare mama by jumping out around a corner...but we are connecting and that is what is truly important.
The hugs and I love yous will come if and when he is ready.

Mamas, (and Daddys) try not to compare.
Each of your children are unique whether born of your womb or your heart, they all are special gifts from God and He chose you to help them heal, learn to love and to model the love of Christ.

If all else fails, just load up a love seat with 5 plus people and closeness is guaranteed!