Two China Dolls and a Prince!

This blog chronicles the story of 2 of our adoptions, both older children when they came home. It begins in 2008 and will continue in the hopes we can be of encouragement and information to anyone thinking of older child adoption.



Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Holiday Happenings and other stuff

The holidays have come and gone and generally went well for the Cavender family.  Overall, everyone was very happy with their gifts, yes, even NingNing!  He anticipated it quite a bit more, knowing what was coming....not to mention the fact that he had asked for a PSP and got it.  However, that was another misstep on our part, as once again, he tends to use electronics as a way to avoid speaking and personal interaction. So we have made the executive decision to not give any more electronics to him for Christmas!  Unless they are toys or games or something interactive.  He has an iPod and now his PSP..that is plenty.
James and Jessica are into Black Friday now and helped me out as I had to work.  James stood in line for an hour and a half waiting to purchase an Xbox.....his had died in early September and it wasn't practical to buy a used one for just a few months, so he waited all that time for another one....and then we made him wait until Christmas to open it!  Nothing like prolonging the anticipation, lol!
The girls are always happy no matter what we get them....Jaz got some neon green basketball shoes and a green shag rug, and she would have been happy with just those, but of course they got more stuff.
Ning also got some of his Chinese snacks and i think he was happier about that than even the PSP!  Soon I will post a video of when he opened them....it's the most excitement I've seen from him since he arrived.
We have been SO busy since October!  James, Jazmin, and Judi are in basketball, and the girls also do dance 3 days a week.  Jaz just informed me she got selected for the honor choir at school, so that will be another thing during February.  Some things have changed with my work, and in not a good way, so the stress was really getting to me and spilling over into home.  I have really  had to work hard at letting it go so I don't come home all snappish with the family.
James is a captain in varsity basketball and has really stepped up his game.....he made his career high the other night of 24 points in a game!  We are so proud of his effort this year.  Jess continues to do well at college and after a month home, was ready to get back to her "life"!  She did call twice the first week and said she missed her mama!  She's my sweet girl and we are so happy college is going well for her.
Ning continues to keep us guessing and STILL not talking to any major extent.  We have just passed the 17 month mark.  Sometimes, like in September and over Christmas, things just seem to "click" and seem to really start moving forward, and then it's almost like he catches himself acting like one of the family and stops again.  He is a hard kid to figure out.  His continued unwillingness to communicate with us to a great extent remains our one big stumbling block.  We have a lot of misunderstandings and unexplainable issues because we don't know what he's thinking, what he really likes, or why he's upset or unhappy.
One bummer...we recently had to end piano lessons.....this was such a hard decision because it was the one thing Ning asked for....we went and bought a piano just because he didn't like our electronic keyboard.  The only problem was, Ning doesn't seem to realize that to be good at something, you must PRACTICE!  He would, but would only play what he wanted, not what the teacher gave as homework. The teacher talked to us about it in front of Ning and it embarrassed and angered him.  We gave Ning the chance to show or tell us he wanted to continue the lessons...asked him 3 times over a week what he wanted and he always said "I don't know".  He took his anger out on me as usual..........someone told me it might be because I was "safe" to be mad at....I would still continue to be there and love him......maybe.....
So instead of piano, he gets to try Taekwondo which he's not happy about.  If he doesn't like Taekwondo, he's going to baseball.  I told him the other day I knew how it was for him in China, that he didn't have to do anything and his foster parents let him be, but this was not China anymore, and things were different here.  I also told him I simply could NOT allow him to lay in bed and play PSP all afternoon and evening as it wasn't good OR the best thing for him....we didn't allow the other sibs to do it, so not him either!  Until the piano thing, everything has been going fairly well, if incredibly busy.

Enjoy the pics....then below those I expound on as somewhat more serious subject.
  
December School Concert and a rare smile from NingNing

James and Jaz clowning around

Practicing his 3-point shot in pre-game

Flying down the court

We are so proud of his effort this year!

Ning on his iPod - he does this every game -says watching basketball is "boring" -but we make him come sometimes anyway to have some family time
My lovely family (with Dad and Carol)

January 2014


http://theadoptioncafe.com/
The above link is a family's blog who stopped their adoption due to fraud.  What, fraud in adoption, you say?!  Yes, as in all things, there is corruption here also.  Over the last month, through Facebook, Yahoo groups, and emails, I have become aware of a growing trend.  MANY older children are now being adopted, especially from China.  But wait, that's a good thing, right?  Not always, my friends.  I hear of so many families that are struggling because the son or daughter they were told wanted a family so bad either a) actually have family still in China and are therefore a "manufactured" orphan, b) are coming specifically told to "get an education and come back", c) or were coerced, lied to, manipulated into agreeing to being adopted.   The families as well are misled.  Many files are embellished, falsified, changed, or altered to make the child more "adoptable".  Let's face it; these are teenagers.  How many people are DELIBERATELY wanting to add an almost grown-up to their homes??
We were.  We stepped out in faith that this was what God wanted us to do.
We adopted NingNing based on the information we had in his file. Because his friend was doing so well, we had high hopes for Ning's transition. We were naive.  Most of the information in his file is false and when we tell Ning some of what it says, about his likes and dislikes, he looks at us like we're crazy.  He has told us no one ever asked him any questions.
Was there absolute fraud with Ning's adoption as I've heard of in others?  I would call it more of a "deliberate intent to mislead".  It was evident when we got to China Ning was not in any hardship.  He had clothes, food, friends, an education, and complete control of his free time.  Granted, he did lack a "real" family and as we've learned more in bits and pieces, his foster parents did no actual parenting...of Ning at least.  Because Ning showed a penchant for laziness (his file said only he didn't like to study), they let him be and required nothing of him.  Is it any wonder his also-unknown stubborn streak rears it's head when we ask for interaction, effort, communication, etc.
We also have recently come across information as to Ning's reason for coming to America.  For privacy's sake, I will only say that a family, a home, or an education were not his main considerations.  And as will happen, life moves on.......if a person can't move with it, they are left behind or "stuck" in between the new and the old.
I know of at least two families that are or have dissolved their adoptions because you can't maintain a healthy relationship if it's built on lies.  Lies to the children, and lies to the families.  In some cases, the children know about it, but are admonished to keep their secrets.  While we believe that Ning did indeed spend most of his life in the orphanage and is a "true" orphan, we also think there are some secrets as yet untold.   There have been times dissolution has crossed my mind (I will not sugarcoat it) ONLY because Ning has sometimes seems so lost and above all, he deserves to just be happy.  He rarely smiles or laughs and so far, has resisted embracing his American life.  What stops us is God telling us NOT to give up, NOT to give in, to persevere, that he is SUPPOSED to be here with us.  Our whole family loves him and can't imagine life without him.  I send up prayers every night for God to open Ning's heart to his life and family.

Having said all that, I STILL believe in the miracle of adoption.  I would LOVE to adopt another child.  My heart cries out for the children who truly long for a family and home.  For the ones left behind when an "aging-out", healthy, teen who doesn't really want to come is adopted instead.  Every child DOES deserve a home and family, but NOT every child WANTS one.  There are plenty of great  stories of adopted teens doing wonderfully (I personally know a few) and I am ecstatic for them and their families. Those great stories can be hard to hear however, for those of us experiencing something different , you don't know why, and people point fingers and ask what YOU are doing wrong.  It is truly an amazing thing to see a child blossom under love and care they've needed for so long.  We've experienced it twice with our daughters; we still have hope we might yet see it with Ning if we just.....keep.....going.
I would never tell someone NOT to adopt a teenager, but I would caution them to not be naive, question everything, read between the lines, don't believe the sob stories, be wise.  And be ready....for anything.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Fall Fun...

The Incredible Flying Jazmin


The Incredible Flying Judi

Truly precious gems


August 2013 - during a "peak"


Rollercoasters

As is usual, all good things usually have an end, and so did Ning's "turnaround". The last two weeks have not been a good time, but we are definitely getting used to the peaks and valleys. Why? Without going into too much detail, after a recent visit away from home, Ning has decided rules at home do not apply to him, especially one particular rule. It is not a harsh rule, or unreasonable, or even a big one, yet the absence of this rule greatly affects his ability to interact with life in general. He simply doesn't think he should have to follow it because he doesn't WANT to, period. Never mind that the other children all have the same rules and are expected to behave which they all find relatively easy to do, EVEN (gasp) older brother. While we know that he had no family rules and no "normal" parental governance of his life for basically 8 years and this is a learning process, it is also a CHOICE. It is a CHOICE of his to refuse to say good morning, goodnight, please or thank you, or even Hello to us; while in public, he does all this just fine. He told his tutor he has no desire to say these things to us or talk to us at any length. Why? We have quit asking that because there are really no answers. And honestly, HOW many teens these days are WONDEFUL kids in public, but go home and treat their families like crap? His teachers like him and expound on how social he is...and talks to them, is polite, respectful of the rules, etc. This is great, because it means he will be able to function in society just fine as a grown-up. BUT, will he be able to form a close, meaningful, emotional attachment to any one single person in his life? Maybe or maybe not. He is a perfect example of what happens to a child that is taken care of physically, but not nurtured, shaped, led, loved, mentored....you wind up with emotional bankruptcy. Would attachment therapy help? Probably....but one can't force a 15-year old into a car to see a "head" doctor if they don't want the help. For myself, I have stopped asking why in general. Having deep discussions don't work, since he himself doesn't even understand why he acts the way he does. So we are giving him space, lots of space. Saturday we did lots of activities to which he wasn't taken along because we wanted to enjoy ourselves freely without a sour face. Sunday we had church and time at grandparents to which he was expected to come. At church, he fell asleep quite obviously, so when we were done, we left our seats and conversed with friends (close by) until he finally came awake and realized he was the only one still sitting...and sleeping. Because of the way he treats us, it has caused us to question our very family unit, our values, the way we do things, the rules we have, and you know what? We came to the conclusion that we are nowhere near perfect, but we are a GOOD family. We have LOTS of love, LOTS of fun, and we LOVE God and what He's done with our lives (ok, a little more money would be nice, but can't have it all, I guess!). God put Ning into our lives for a purpose. Perhaps we were only meant to be a safe haven from which he can go on and make a better life. And we are certain and satisfied with ONE thing overall. Even if he returns to China at 18 and we never see him again, for at LEAST 4 years of his life, he WILL have known love, even if he doesn't understand it or want it.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

14 months since Ning walked into our lives.........

What a ride it has been!  The last 14 months have been probably the most challenging of our lives.  In the last 3 months alone, our emotions have run the gamut from frustration to despair to hope to sheer joy and back through it all again.  It reminds me of a country dance, the 2-step.  In tandem with your partner, you take two steps forward, one step back, two forward, one back, but always moving in a forward direction.
Watching Ning emerge little by little from his self-imposed cocoon is a tremendous thing to watch.  This boy who had been essentially ignored by the adults around him in China is finally realizing that, for the first time in his life, there are people who genuinely CARE about him and who he becomes.  And not just us, his family.  Our friends the Sanders and Verhulsts, his friends at school, his teachers, his tutors....a whole wealth of people invested in his future where before there were none.  There have been times when we wondered if we did the right thing bringing him home (even if it was his choice) because of his slow, sometimes difficult adjustment.  But lately, we have seen more and more signs of the sweet, funny boy Ning really is.........just in the last few weeks, we have seen more smiles and heard more laughs than in the entire first year.  He seems to have turned a corner in his own mind and perhaps is finally beginning to believe us when we say he is loved and here to stay for as long as he needs and wants.

Now for just a few updates on our summer events...........August 8 was our one-year with Ning.  Even then, let's just say it was NOT the joyous occasion it was with our girls, simply because the celebrant still wasn't sure he was happy about his decision to come here.  We kept it very low-key; went to Chinese, and I wrote him a letter about the miracle of how he happened to be in our family and close to his friends.  Then just the other day, Ning and I had the occasion to have a long conversation about many things.  He admitted having a good relationship with his foster parents, but mainly because by his own admission, they never bothered him about school, and imposed no rules or expectations on him.  They provided a place to sleep and food to eat and that was pretty much it.  He said the hardest thing for him besides learning English was getting used to the way we Americans "teach" our children by assigning consequences to actions.  This was a totally foreign concept for Ning, but once I explained WHY we are involved in school (because we care about his future) and WHY we discipline (because we care about WHO he becomes), he just seemed "lighter" somehow.

Then on August 18th, we hit another milestone........we sent our oldest, Jessica, off to college.  We all went to move her in to her dorm room, and we couldn't believe our first baby was all grown up.  Ning seemed particularly interested in the goings on, and Jazmin said she couldn't wait to go to college!  Thankfully, as I'd hoped, Jessica has settled in well, made many friends, is doing fine with her grades, and overall enjoying her freedom.

School has started for the rest of the kiddos (I will post school pics soon); James is a junior (gasp), Ning is an official high-schooler, Jaz is in 5th grade, and Judi's a big 3rd-grader. All the kids are doing well, though James is chomping at the bit to get to graduation already.  How do you tell your kids to slow down, to not want to grow up so fast?    Ning continues in his ESL program, and we have him in extra tutoring 4 additional hours a week.  Some of it is through our college's Speech clinic and he is making amazing progress.  He has even, finally, begun to use English in sentences and spontaneously answer questions; you can tell it makes a huge difference in his attitude to be able to communicate even that little amount. He has gone from just learning phonics during the summer to 2nd grade level stories and books already!  And the most amazing thing is that he has begun working extra hard on his English at HOME; that has made so much difference in his progress and his ability to interact with us.

Other news is that we got a "real" piano just this last weekend!  Ning didn't like our 20-year old keyboard for some reason, and I have to admit I love having a piano......I have always wanted one, a childhood dream of mine.  And the bonus is......Ning has practiced every day without me saying a word; yahoo!
Between piano, dance, and basketball, the kids keep us running.  James will start varsity basketball in early November and then things will really get interesting!  And I'm already looking forward to Spring baseball and both my boys playing; that will be fun to watch them both play on the same team.


Thursday, July 11, 2013

Catching Up.....

Wow...it's amazing how time gets away from you as each day unfolds. A ton has happened since May 8.  Our oldest daughter has graduated, NingNing graduated from 8th grade, Jazmin and Judi had their dance recital,  we went on our first family vacation, somehow fit baseball and tutoring (NingNing), basketball (James), a job (Jessica), and softball (Jaz and Judi), and our 1-year Gotcha Day is only a month away!  NingNing found out our lives get busier in May and beyond but now we're done with all sports for a few weeks or until October unless James plays football.

So what's been going on with Ning after almost a year?  Well, I'd have to say he's still settling in.  For the most part, he's comfortable and relaxed with us and most places we go.  He occasionally has bouts of moodiness and stubbornness when he doesn't feel he needs to follow all the rules.  Don't most teens??  But when reminded that it is a very simple thing to adhere to certain expectations of behavior or lose his beloved iPod, he settles back down.  Overall, he is a really good kid who is taking a bit longer to adjust to his new life.  We still try to find things he will enjoy with us as a family, but he was so used to NOT doing things "together", and being solitary when not with his friends; those are hard habits to break when they are so ingrained.

We went on our first family vacation and we just didn't know how it would go; we didn't know if we'd have issues with limiting the electronics or not; we wanted to have fun with Ning and not lay down a bunch of rules.  So we just let what would happen.....happen.  And you know what?  He did great!  We went to Gatlinburg, TN, and met up with Jazmin's adoption group; a group of the most outstanding people we've ever been privileged to call friends.  More than friends; they are truly our extended family, and they enfolded NingNing just as they did Judi.
Ning proceeded to have a great time, surprising us all!  He played pool, swam in a lake (discovered he needs swimming lessons!), went river-tubing, messed around with the other teens, swam in a pool, ate everything, and (gasp!) met a GIRL!  I won't go into details, but it was the sweetest thing, as Ning wasn't quite sure how to handle her attentions; he still doesn't believe he is handsome and cute.
Once we got home, he did withdraw from us a little again, but i think after vacation, our house must have seemed boring! 

Regarding school and English.......he graduated from 8th grade just fine, and ended up with all A's the classes he got grades in.  He's now all signed up for 9th grade, which makes me nervous as more will be expected of him.
The problem is he STILL wasn't speaking English.  We finally found a Mandarin professor who wanted to help tutor him and began some sessions with her, but then she decided on a last-minute six week trip to China!  I wasn't sure what more we could do to help Ning's English, and then we heard about a Communications Disorders clinic at our local college.  We sent in paperwork, got him accepted, and he's now gone 4 times for 2 hours each time.  It is called "language camp".  He spends one hour conversing with other kids and learning social norms of communication and the next hour is one-on-one with a therapist who works on vocab, phonics, light reading.  She is amazing and he's already shown great progress with this program; I am so happy we found it...it is just what he needed......and I feel better knowing we're doing our best to find ways to help him adjust and communicate.
I will say one thing....it's not always easy to have a kid who's not used to giving or receiving affection or feeling much for other people.  He is doing much, much better accepting affection, but ONLY mine.  The girls are next in line; affection from anyone else is slightly "rebuffed", but in a good way.  Something in me needs to be loved, needed, wanted; I'm fulfilled by the love of my children, so understanding and accepting his reluctance to show that emotion has been a huge growth area for me.  A child this age cannot be forced to love, nor can they be expected to just fall in love with people like a little one would.  It's like moving in with a roommate you don't know and never met; if you want it to work out, you have to work at it, and accept each other as is, but each side also has to change a little.  That means the teen also has to accept his/her family as is.  People in the adoption community talk about adoptive parents adjusting their expectations of their new child but what if the new family doesn't meet the child's expectations and the child themselves can't adjust?  What then? What if the child comes with hopes and fantasies of the way life will be or someone has filled their heads with delusions of grandeur?  Getting along and living together is a two-way street, and while I'm sure Ning doesn't REALLY care to live on 22 "buggy" acres, and doesn't always like our "noisiness", he does seem to be accepting us more and more, just as we continue to learn to accept and love him the way he is, while opening his mind to new and different things.
Now for some pictures!.....................
Jessica's graduation May 2013...our firstborn baby girl!


Jessica and Grandpa

NingNing being recognized for his hard work; he was NOT comfortable being up in front of everyone

NingNing and his English teacher - I love this picture.  A rare, genuine smile from NingNing captured on film.

Tried to swim in the lake; he thought he didn't need a life vest.  He relaxed in the boat the rest of the day :). We had rented a pontoon boat and spent the day swimming and flying kites.

Jazmin, Judi, and one of our friends
Working on his "tan", lol
The "crew"...everyone had such a great time on vacation!
NingNing and a "friend"
All the children in our 2013 Holt Guangxi Adoption Group Reunion vacation
Judi - enjoying our nature walk

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Piano and baseball!


Piano Recital was April 28, 2013.  NingNing has been playing only since January and he memorized his piece.  He was so nervous, but pulled through like a champ! video
I didn't notice til later watching the video he was sitting with his legs crossed!

Getting ready to head for 3rd base...May 7, 2013


James was helping Ning's team at their first game.  James has about 13 years experience playing baseball.

Ning had thrown the ball to first base too high..he was waving his hand as if to wave that throw away!

First time up to bat in a baseball game....EVER!

Thursday, May 2, 2013

A Poem For Our Son

To encourage not only ourselves, but hopefully others experiencing struggles with their children, these words came to me.

Our love stands strong,
        in the face of your tears.

Our love stands strong,
       in the emergence of your fears.

Our love won't end,
       when you run from it.

Our love won't end,
      when your built-up dreams plummet.

Our love will always be,
      waiting for when you're ready.

Our love will always be,
      strong and steady.