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Sunday, September 25, 2011

Our New Life

(Images above: Ella learns to play in the Bacak house! I love the dress-up on her! Also, she shows off her Ghanaian superpower of carrying things perfectly balanced on her head.)

Today marks two weeks with Ella home.
I know, it's taken me two weeks to finally update, but it's been a bit crazy, adjusting to our new life.
I do call it a new life, because life will never be the same.
Much like having your first baby, life is forever changed in good AND hard ways.
Just to recap if you don't know us, we have adopted an older child internationally, disrupted our birth order, and she is deaf, so this is a special need that very much affects all of our lives.
All the changes and adjustments are complex, and I find it hard to answer they question, "how's it going?"
I usually say GOOD and HARD.
So let me recap some of the "goods" and then the "hards". Those are my main two categories.

*It's so good to have Ella home! We waited for what felt like forever for her visa to come through, and it is still a little surreal that the Embassy ordeal is over and our little Ghanaian daughter is home! I love having her here and so enjoy her!

*She is bubbly and fun! I LOVE seeing life in America through her eyes! The smallest things bring her such joy! The water and ice dispenser, automatic paper towel dispenser, hot water from the sink, baths in the bath tub, riding her bike, and swimming...all bring her pure elation every time! It doesn't get old.
Deaf kids are generally very expressive, but my daughter...good heavens...SO expressive, so dramatic, such a big signer...she's just entertaining at times.

*Our bonding with her and her with us is going unbelievably well! It's such a night and day difference from our experience with her in Ghana. When we were there, she didn't want anything to do with Rusty. We never dreamed she would be the Daddy's girl she is today! It's such an answer to prayer! When we were in Ghana she wouldn't even sit next to him in the taxi. It had NOTHING to do with Rusty! She had no regard for men at all, and no respect for them. She didn't have a reason to. Respecting men is a new way of life for her. But today, she respects Rusty, she runs to him when he comes home from work and wants him to hold her for an hour. I've watched my man jump on the trampoline while holding her. He's amazing. She adores him now, Praise the Lord!
She and I bonded pretty well in Ghana, and have continued bonding even more since she's been home. I'm so thankful that this process (and it is a process!!!) is going well.

*My ASL skills are improving. They were more than a bit rusty, so I'm so pleased that communication for us is going well at home, and my brain is starting to think in ASL more and more. I have little difficulty understanding her most of the time. Her language level is still relatively low due to her underexposure to language in her life, but rising daily.
I'm so proud of my husband!!! He is signing better every day! He works so hard at signing and is doing amazingly well!

*God has provided in such a huge way with people in our life that have prepared us and supported us in very specific and important ways! I have two women who are so dear to me who have walked ahead of me. They are lifelines for me! One of these friends has adopted deaf children, so she has prepped me on my ADA rights for Ella and how to request an interpreter for her. I've done this twice already and it made my stomach hurt. People are not always excited or aware of ADA and the cost it incurs. This is why America is so great! People with disabilities are not second-class citizens! I feel so blessed to live here and for Ella to have so many opportunities open to her! But I have to be an advocate for her, always ready to defend those rights. You see why it makes my stomach hurt? With this issue and about one hundred more, Shannan and Shelly have walked me through it, talked me down from panic, given me the, "Yep...I know" commiseration, and such profound and Godly wisdom and advice! I'm SO THANKFUL for God's provision in these women, and others. Of course, for my Mom. She is my constant source of wisdom and advice. This road is hard, but God has provided people to walk alongside me and give the support we need. He is so good!

*Of all the issues that fall under the "hard" category, we could be experiencing them more severely than we are. I'm thankful, though there are daily issues to deal with, they're not worse. And sleep has gone amazingly well, Praise the Lord!

* Ella is adapting to American life so much better and faster than I could adapt to another culture. I am amazed at her adaptability at times. This life is utterly foreign to her, and she is rolling with it better than expected.

(DISCLAIMER: While I want to be honest with you about the struggles we face, I will not always fully disclose to the world on the internet the nitty-gritty details. I want to protect my children, their stories, and their right to tell. I want them to be able to come back and read all of this someday and not feel embarrassed or ashamed about what I disclosed. I can tell my own junk. They have the right to choose when to share their own junk.)

*Assimilating Ella into our family is harder than I anticipated. I should have anticipated this more, but I'm not sure you totally can. We have disrupted our birth order. This is not recommended because it's hard. Children see their ages as a badge they wear and they fall in line in the pecking order accordingly. We sometimes forget this as adults, but it's true. Ella falls smack-dab in the middle of my bigs and my littles. This has been extremely difficult for my littles. They do not enjoy feeling usurped by her. They have not warmed up to the idea yet.

* Trying to interpret her personality to them is difficult at times. Blending these personalities together is a challenge. We are crossing many cultural boundaries here. She is very much Ghanaian. Their culture is very different from ours! Also, deaf culture is very unique and distinct. Her volume level, her inappropriate use of her voice, laughing at things they take offense at, are all examples of issues all the kids are struggling with. This is going to take time to work through some of these issues. Much to my dismay, it doesn't all fall into place in two weeks time. In my dream world, I just thought "they're kids! They'll just play and love each other instantly!" It's not that easy. Don't get me wrong! Some of this is going well, but it's different for each of my kids. Some of them feel more love, affection, and acceptance of her than others. Bonding just doesn't happen instantly. Much to my chagrin.

*Learning to sign all of the time is very difficult. I personally find it difficult while I'm trying to teach school to the other kids. The kids find it difficult all of the time. Understandably so! Learning a new language is not easy, and it's completely life changing to have to speak it almost all of time! But it's a must. We have to all sign, end of story. How to get my kids there, I'm not quite sure yet. We are in the midst of this one, and when we arrive, I'll let you know. Again, some of them are doing better than others on this one.

*Interpreting everything in our lives is not an easy task either. Church just became very difficult. But God is providing for us as we adjust to this. We also just purchased most of the Bible in ASL that we will utilize in church and in family worship. I'm so thankful for resources like this one!

*We have the normal issues that so many international and older adopted children experience. Food issues. She is adapting better to food than I expected! She just found she likes ketchup as well as peanut butter sandwiches, which I think officially makes her an American kid. But food is still an issue. Meal time can be exhausting. She likes eggs. Those are familiar. We have literally gone through triple digits of eggs since she got here. I'm officially tired of scrambling eggs. She eats five scrambled eggs every morning! (We have documented her starting weight!) Food for these kids needs to be accessible and on-hand, which I sometimes stink at. I forget to pack snacks when we leave the house sometimes. That can bring on a breakdown. There is great security in knowing that food is there, and it's still going to be there tomorrow.

*I don't know how else to explain this adjustment time other than exhausting. This requires all of my time and energy. Every minute of every day. Trying to keep everyone together, communicating, breaking up disputes and misunderstandings, hoping to facilitate bonding breakthroughs, helping her to feel loved, secure, included, at home, helping all the other kids feel loved, secure, not forgotten...there's little time to answer e-mails, shower, return texts, and school my children! This leads into our decision to put Ella in public school. One reason: No one is getting a good education around here right now. That makes me crazy! I can't meet her educational needs, and I can't meet anyone else's. It's just too much. Also, I am not providing a language rich environment around here or able to spend quality time with her in the morning. So she will soon be starting school with the Deaf Ed program here in Bryan. It's at a great school and is a great classroom! I am very pleased with everything I've seen and learned so far! It is definitely weird and hard for me to put our child into public school for the first time. No offense to public school, this is just new for me. But I know this is a good place for her and for all of us right now, and she is very excited to get a backpack and ride the bus. She will start going half days at first, which makes it feel do-able I think.

This is not an exhaustive list of the goods and hards, but it's a start. I need to get back to my life swirling around me. I am thankful for prayers for us and for Ella!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Happy Birthday Emma!

I know I need to update my blog...Ella's been home for exactly one week, and I so appreciate all of you who have been praying for our transition.
However, there's hardly time to shower, much less blog, I feel like. (Can I hear an AMEN!?)
But today, I need to pause this craziness in our life and celebrate my baby girl...my very first baby girl...Emma.
I am so thankful for this child. God has poured out his grace and goodness on her and made her His own!
She is a daughter of the King!
She loves God's Word, and many mornings snuggles next to me while with her own Bible, her own reading plan she has come up with.
The massive change that this adoption has heaped on her life could turn her inside out, but she has been steadfast this week.
Not unshaken. We've all been a bit shaky.
But she's leaning on the Lord with us and been adaptable when she probably didn't feel like being adaptable.
She loves us with all her might.
She reads like I always longed for my child to read.
(She got a Kindle for her birthday today, and has already downloaded "Pride and Prejudice" and "Great Expectations". I love it!)
She can run on all fours like a horse freakishly fast (when she doesn't have a broken arm). That's uniquely Em.
She loves to ride. She was born in love with horses somehow. She has taught me to love horses.
She actually teaches me all the time. I'm not sure who's homeschooling who?
She has her moments and struggles...because, duh! We all do!
But I adore my first baby, my sweet Emma Michal!
When she made her long awaited entrance, we had no idea what motherhood and fatherhood would really feel like.
I remember the amazing revelation of not only how much my parents must love me, but how deep the Father's love for us is.
We love you, Em. We have always, and will always, LOVE YOU!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

It's our homecoming day!

Watching the sunrise this morning was exciting.
Here I sit, in the same spot I have sat for the more than a month, every morning.
I have pleaded with the Lord in this spot.
I have battled hopelessness, anger, frustration, and sadness.
I have wrestled with them, and have run to the Lord and His Word.
Ten days ago, I wrote in my journal as I sat here,
"I'm watching light spill out on another morning, and Ella's not here.
She's not coming this week.
Probably not next week.
Lord, help me to trust you and your timing."
The Lord has ministered to me in those moments.
But today...today I have watched light spill out on the day she comes home.
This very day, she will be in our home! I have thought about this day everyday
for the past 113 days.
It's finally here!
In fact, as I type, Rusty and Ella are on a flight from Washington D.C. to Houston.
She is actually a U.S. citizen now. (I think. I won't pretend to understand all the legalities from here.)
She handled the overnight flight beautifully. Two more flights to go.
Today will just be the beginning of our new life together.
There is so much to adjust to! Our electronic lives take these children by surprise!
It's like us going to live with the Jetson's all of a sudden!
Things move by themselves! Escalators, garage doors, like magic.
The face of College Station, TX could not look more different from her home in Ghana.
Food. Oh goodness. Food is so hard! This will be a challenge.
And I know that some things I anticipate to be hard, might go swimmingly well!
And there will be things that catch us completely off guard!
Signing all of the time, all of us, is going to be challenge #1, if you ask me!
But all of these challenges, we are ready... I think we're ready (deep sigh and prayer)...
to face them today. We face them with great joy in having all of our family together,
under one roof for the first time today! Praise the Lord, for putting all of these children
as a gift under our care. What an awesome, take your breath away, strike the fear of God in you,
responsibility and privelege.
By the grace of God, we forge a new path today in the Bacak home.
The Bacak Nation has gone national! Praise the Lord! Today is the day!

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Coming Home!

Finally, our daughter is coming home.
Rusty is leaving this week to go get her and we even have a plane ticket for her to the U.S.!
We are so relieved that this waiting period is coming to an end, and that we feel certain her visa will be issued.
We appreciate more than we can say the prayers so many have prayed on her behalf.
We can't wait for her to get here! Friends and family, this little girl is a spitfire, so it's time for you to meet her!
We know getting her home is just the beginning of a sweet, rewarding, but extremely difficult journey.
But we are so thrilled to add Ella to our family, as God ordained it to be from the beginning of time!
These first few weeks are going to be overwhelming for her, and probably for us as well.
Can you imagine the culture shock these children feel?
Having spent two weeks in Ghana, seeing how night and day different it is there, I know it's going to be serious overload for her.
Every adoption expert tells you to stay home and establish a routine as much as possible in the first few weeks.
Introduce people in your life slowly, not all at once.
Keep the traffic in and out of your house at a minimum initially.
Some of the hurdles we'll face involve food, air conditioning, and of course, BONDING!
Adding an older child to your family is big enough, but adding a deaf child has its own unique challenges.
Communication as a family will be a learning process, to say the least.
If you feel led to pray for us, you can pray:
-For all of my children to learn to sign fluently and that we would all be committed to using sign at all times in the house. This is huge! (Some of my kids are signing better than others.)
-Pray for Ella's adjustment to U.S. culture, food, environment, being surrounded by SO MANY white people, and sleep.
-Pray for bonding for everyone! As Ella grieves the loss of her birth family, she has to embrace us as her family, and vice versa. Please pray for this process, that God would do what only He can do in our family!
-For Ella's schooling. There is so much to consider, and we need divine wisdom as we begin teaching her and continue to make decisions concerning her education.
-We need people in our life that can sign/ will learn to sign to be babysitters, interpreters at church, etc. We are so thankful for the people He has already provided! Praise the Lord!
-Finally, safe travel for Rusty and Ella, and for their bonding while they are there together.

I'm sure there's more, but I'll stop.
Thank you again to those who have followed this, who have prayed, and who continue to pray. We can't tell you how thankful we are!