Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Always Something Better

We are so happy to announce our latest addition, Christopher Wei En Niforatos!

We actually got the match about a month ago, but we decided to keep it a secret for a while, mostly because of Theia Nickie's wedding and wanting to focus on that.  (Also because we couldn't decide upon a name!) It was hard to keep it quiet because we are SO excited!

As I've said before, we were hoping and praying to be matched with a 6-year old named Elijah for a long while.  When we found out his file was sent to an Italian agency with which his orphanage has a 1-to-1 relationship, we were disappointed, to say the least.  But, knowing how many available orphans there are in China (especially boys) we decided to request a waiting child.  

We had no idea we'd be matched so quickly!

The Shared List (a list from which agencies may select waiting children for their families) came out on Monday, February 25th.  I was so disappointed when our agency called the next day to tell us that there was a SNAFU and that they were unable to log onto the website.  The could not "lock in" any children for any of their clients.

Our agency decided to wait 3 more days before trying to log on again.  Families are given 72 hours to decide whether or not that want to be matched with a child that has been "locked in" from the Shared list.  So our agency figured that a bunch of files would have been returned to the list after this 3 day period and that they would have more files from which to choose.

I wasn't feeling very optimistic.  I felt kind of defeated after all that had happened with Elijah, and then after getting my hopes up for the Shared List earlier that week.  Thinking that the agency had not been able to log in again, I started packing up our car on Friday morning to head to Mountain Creek for a day of snow tubing with other homeschoolers.

While I was packing the car, I stopped to check my email and saw the referral and pictures of a little 10-month old boy:

Oh, that smile!  Those eyes! I was immediately hooked.  

John and I exchanged a flurry of emails, while I simultaneously packed up for our field trip and researched his Special Need.  We had 72 hours to make the decision.

Christopher has Ectrodactyly.  Both hands and both feet are malformed.  I had never heard of this condition before, nor did I know how disabled he might be.  Would he be able to walk?  Hold a pencil?  I had no idea, and the internet was not terribly helpful, I suppose because it is a fairly rare disease.  

I ended up finding a blog when I googled "Ectrodactyly."  The family had adopted a little girl with the same condition.  This was the most informative thing I could have found because it showed how a family functions with a child with Ectro.  And, let me tell you, this little girl could do everything!  One video on the blog actually shows her eating with chopsticks!

I also emailed the blog's author and she was SO helpful.  She explained about the condition and what surgeries and therapies might or might not be needed.  She answered all of my questions about related issues:  dry skin, thin hair, dental issues.  But most of all, she calmed my fears.  As she related her story, Christopher's condition seemed less scary and slowly became my new normal.

As John and I discussed whether or not to accept the referral, it became clear to me that my biggest fear with Christopher's condition was that his being "different" would cause me emotional pain.  There is nothing worse for a mother than seeing her child hurt, and my imagination was running wild with scenes of people making fun of his hands or feet, or people turning away in disgust.  I didn't want to feel that knot in my heart for my own child; I did not want to deal with helping him navigate others' cruelty.

But, as quickly as those thoughts came to me, I realized how selfish that was.  I cannot turn away just because I don't want to feel the pain.  Christopher cannot walk away from his condition, no matter how much he wants to.  And, I, as the mother I already felt myself to be, could not either.  The choices were not:  have a child with this condition or not; instead they were:  Christopher can have this condition in China (where birth defects are even more of a social taboo than they are here) without loving parents, or he can have it here, with us.  One option was clearly better.

The whole line of thinking reminded me of what I hear a lot of people say about foster care.  Many other moms I've encountered have said something like " I would love to foster a child and give them a loving home for a while, but it would break my heart to give them back (to an abusive parent, etc.), so I can't do it."  I think to myself (1) you can do a lot more than you think you can do and (2) its not about you!!   Fostering is not about the foster parent's comfort and ease, it is about the child, who desperately needs respite from a bad situation.

But, I am not being judgmental, because I think those thoughts, too.  I thought them about my Christopher.  I did not want to feel the pain of rejection or judgment, nor the discomfort of trying to educate people about his 'difference.'  I have some growing up to do.

By the time we accepted the referral Sunday night, I had complete peace about it all.  And, as has happened with our other two adoptions, Christopher immediately became my son in my heart. 
 Just like that. 

 Adoption is such a miracle.

I still feel sad about Elijah.  But I try to remember that God's plan is always perfect.  Perhaps Elijah will be a better fit for another family; perhaps there is just simply another plan for his life that involves him growing up in Italy.  But whatever the reason, I just have to accept it.  I'm getting there.

Most of the time, I don't get exactly what I want.  Instead, I get something better.  And I am so blessed.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Colonial Williamsburg

After Nickie's wedding, we travelled south a few hours to Colonial Williamsburg.  Since we are studying the Revolution, it seemed like perfect timing.  We had just finished reading Johnny Tremain, and the kids were really into the time period.  

We stayed in a restored historic house right in the town.  It was really perfect because (1) it fit all of us and (2) the kids got really into character, pretending they were the "Lewises" -- the name of the family that actually owned the house in the late 1700's.  This went on night and day.

The house was actually owned by the father of Martha Washington (nee Lewis); it was pretty cool.

We had our own tiny backyard, which is always good when you have kids, especially young boys who like to dig up stuff.  Here Peter and Nicholas are planting some cotton seeds that they got from the spinning and weaving presentation we attended that day.

We spent a lot of time just walking through the town and looking in the shops.  It was so neat to see what a town was like in the Colonial period.

Here is the pharmacy.  The coolest part, according to the kids, was the real human skeleton in the back room.

Ellie's favorite part was the horses.

Olivia's favorite part was the dress-up.  She was on a mission to find a colonial dress, and that she did.  We found the dress-makers, and she tried on bonnets, smocks, and dresses.  And, for an early birthday present, received her very own outfit.  Voila:  meet Anne Lewis!  Olivia did not grace us with her presence the entire time we were there; instead Anne Lewis spoke to us with a British accent while we toured the town.

The boys just opted to buy muskets.

The Governor's mansion.

 The wig-makers.

  Spinning and weaving.

Another mansion.

  An street-side debate over the pros and cons of the war.

  Lunch at a tavern.

This was such a good family trip.  We were sad to leave, but, as always, eager to get back to 
home sweet home.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

The Wedding

This weekend we attended John's sister's wedding.  Theia Nickie, as she is called around here, is someone really special.  

She is not just John's beloved sister, but my good, good friend.  

Olivia is especially attached to her Theia.  She is a second mother, a big sister, and a best friend all rolled into one.

She has been our number one babysitter since the day Olivia was born.  

And she was there when Nicholas came home.

Not only was she there the day after Peter was born, but she drove 3 and a half hours to meet us at the hospital when Peter underwent his emergency appendectomy 

(By the way, Theia Nickie is a pediatrician).

Nickie also stayed with the kids when we went to adopt Ellie, and met her soon after she came home.  I am sure there must be some pictures of Nickie and Ellie, but I can't find any.  Poor fourth child is a bit neglected when it comes to picture-taking.  Plus, she doesn't sit still long enough for us to get a good shot!

We were all so thrilled when Nickie and her fiancĂ© (now husband) announced their engagement last year.  Since then, the kids have been anxiously awaiting the big day.  Not just awaiting, but enacting.
They have played "wedding" at least once a week for the last year:  Olivia is a bridesmaid/priest (she takes on 2 roles), Nick is the ring-bearer, and Ellie and Peter are the bride and groom.

Nickie's wedding was a BIG day.  Yes, for Nickie too (LOL).

Doesn't Nickie look gorgeous?  LOVE the dress!

The day started with hair and makeup.  

Olivia loved being pampered.  She loved her hairstyle so much she kept it in for 4 days, sleeping in bobby-pins and everything.  

Then, we took pictures in beautiful Annapolis, Maryland.  

Nickie's bridal party included all 4 of our kids, and 4 more of John's cousins' children.  Such a darling wedding party.

Ellie said she was Snow White.  She referred to her dress as her "beautiful dress" at every opportunity.  For example, "Mommy, will you pull up my Beautiful Dress while I go potty?"

John and I having a moment alone (kind of)!

Peter and Nick were both ring-bearers and they were so proud of their responsibility.  I almost forgot to cue them to bring the rings up during the ceremony.  The priest was nodding and looking at me, and I just smiled back at him!  Oy, finally I got it, and the boys performed their duties!

Here is the youngest member of the bridal party, baby Niki (yes, we are a Greek family, so we have to have at least 2 Nickie/Niki's and one Nick).

I was so happy my parents could come down for the wedding too.  The kids especially love having all of the family together.

The reception was the greatest.  It looked like this most of the time:  kids running, dancing, laughing.  Olivia declared it the greatest night of her life.

I spent a lot of the night with Ellie sleeping on my lap.  Poor thing got tuckered out from all of the excitement.  But, I still had a wonderful time, watching all of the romance and the dancing.


Congratulations to the happy couple!
Nickie, we love you so much.  We are so glad you have found a partner for life.