Fifty one days ago, I met someone. Not just someone, but my son. He went by the name Zheng Bang, and in his sixteen little months, he knew many homes…four to be exact…until he was united with us. The Phillips family. Our name became his, as did our home, as did our kids. His. In sixteen months, nothing was his.
We met him on a sunny spring day at his foster home. It was filled with kids and caregivers, and the noise level was nothing compared to our house, which holds far fewer people. It was odd to me, seeing all these children, many who were quiet and just…still. Our house is the polar opposite with people jumping on trampolines, people diving onto the couch, people laughing loudly, people breaking out into song. (Musicals are for real, folks. We frequently do just break into song and dance out of nowhere.) Maybe we are the odd ones.
His silence. His stillness…almost lethargy. Is that what scared me? When we went to the foster home, he sat in silence staring off. At 16 months all my other children were bundles of energy, running and climbing, exploring. And their noise, oh the noise. The absence of noise is what has torn my heart apart each time we visited the orphanage. Babies in cribs crying tears without noise, without actually crying out. It haunts me.
I sat in the floor and played with my soon to be son who didn’t respond to my smiles or my high pitched baby talk. All the while, Caleb, who is only 9 months older, ran all over the room asking for specific toys and engaging us in conversation. I was scared. And as we drove away from the foster home, I prayed that God would take the fear. I prayed that he would fill me with confidence. And you know what? It worked. A few days later, my new mantra became, “We’re not gonna worry until someone tells us to worry.”
Home: month 1.
Fifty one days ago, I met someone. Not just someone, but my son. He goes by the name Caston (or Casty…an unlikely nickname given to him by Caleb in China). In the one month that he has been home, he has known consistency. Every morning when his little head pops up out of the pack n play by our bed, he sees his Mom and Dad. When I look him in the eye and smile, he returns it with a huge grin of excitement. He bounces up and down cooing and reaches his little arms up for me to pick him up.
The silence and quiet of morning snuggles doesn’t last long. There are lots of people who are eager to play with him. Caleb, who was initially jealous, now asks for Caston as soon as I get him out of his crib. If Caston crawls out of sight, Caleb scans the room and then looks to me asking, “Casty?” with his hands turned up. The hide and seek games erupt everywhere…behind the curtains, around the couch, behind a light pole at a baseball game. These two are really learning to appreciate each other. Caston has learned so much just by observing his siblings. And he has even taught them a thing or two. Caleb now bear crawls happily beside Caston, a skill he refused to do in Mommy and Me gymnastics.
Here are some updates and info since our two week update. My how things have changed!
- Siblings–My goodness. I don’t know how we have been so fortunate. Our kids are so amazing in their capacity and willingness to love on the littles. They are always so eager to jump in and help. Caston adores them all! Braden is The Fun One who tosses kids in the air and causes general fun mayhem. Annalise is The Mothering One who rushes to their cries and loves to be my biggest helper when Kevin is coaching on the field at baseball games. Waverly is The Snuggly One who delights in piling up with the babies to watch Disney Junior and cuddle.
- The Noise Level–It is simply amazing how quickly things can change with consistency and reassurance. Caston is no longer terrified of loud noises. I can run the vacuum right up next to him, and I can now dry my hair without him crying and shaking. A few weeks ago, crowds cheering and clapping at baseball games sent him over the edge. Now he claps along sometimes!
- Baths–We have had major breakthroughs in Caston’s fear of water. On day 37 home, he didn’t cry when I put him in the tub. On day 46, he actually played with Caleb and smiled, and he put his hands underwater to get a toy. (It’s amazing the things we take for granted. I actually texted my mother about these things!) On day 49, he discovered the fun in splashing water. Water splashed up into his face, and he still smiled. He will be an Olympic swimmer. I am sure of it.
- Eating–Caston will now eat some Gerber 3rd foods (mostly purees with some chunks). I fed him a couple of meals of squished red beans and rice as well as squished pasta and meatballs. He enjoyed it! I did push it a little too far though and gave him a bigger piece of meatball. He gagged and vomited, and the mealtime fun was over. We will be meeting with the feeding team at the children’s hospital next week to discuss his nutritional needs and develop a plan to transition him to a more typical toddler diet. Our biggest challenge in this area is that he still doesn’t attempt to self feed. He has the fine motor skills to do it. He just flat out refuses any food that is not on a spoon.
- Medical Appointments–Man, if you told me 15 years ago that I would know my way around the children’s hospital and that I would have a favorite place to park there, I would have called you crazy. If you told me that I would have a child that needed to see multiple specialists, I would have cried. God certainly has a way of preparing you for things like this. Caston has several medical issues that need to be investigated, and so far, they have all turned out to be no big deal. We are still currently swimming in a sea of appointments, some related to feeding, some related to some wonky lab results. I’m completely at peace with this. It could be a test fluke, or it could be things that we have to treat. We’re not gonna worry until someone tells us to worry. There are so many things that I’m thankful for right now regarding Caston’s health matters. I’m thankful that we have a doctor who is proactive. I’m thankful that we live only half an hour away from our children’s hospital. I’m thankful that it’s summer and that I’m not making all these drives back and forth in the snow and ice. I’m thankful that it’s warm and that I don’t have to bundle two toddlers and trek through a snowy parking lot. I’m thankful that we have health insurance. I’m thankful that the big kids are willing to babysit Waverly while I take the littles to the doctor. I’m thankful that many of the offices validate parking. And I am mostly thankful that God gave us Caston. If he needs treatment or medication for any of the things we’ve run across, I’m thankful that God got him to us as quickly as possible
- My Biggest Challenges–Life with five kids is busy. Of course, we are just in a busy season anyway with kids spanning the ages of 1-14. I am pretty much able to manage the day to day stuff. Everyone is fed and clothed and loved. I have two challenges right now:
- The ability to think ahead. We are so busy dealing with RIGHT NOW that I don’t think about what’s going on tomorrow until tomorrow gets here. This means that I am frantically googling the address of the doctor at a red light on the way to an appointment. If a kid has a birthday party, we are likely buying a present on the way to the party. Drive through food consumption is at an all time high. A few kids ago, I would have packed sandwiches, chopped veggies and fruit salad to take to a 6 pm baseball game. Currently, we either pick up food, or the kids eat chips, popcorn, and sunflower seeds at the game. And this is just the way it is right now. No apologies. It is what it is, and it isn’t forever.
- The pile of paperwork/invitations/fliers on the counter. I dig through this pile on an as needed basis. In that pile, a couple of graduation announcements have lived since mid May. I finally mailed a gift for one yesterday. The other? I’ll be honest. I have no idea who it’s from. Neither Kevin nor I recognize the name or the face, and we’re not entirely sure that the envelope was even addressed to our family. Whoever opened the pile of mail that accumulated while we were in China threw it away. So if that was your kid, she is beautiful, congratulations, and we’re sorry. I anticipate weeding through what remains of the pile in late August when the kids are back in school and nap time is free again. (Who am I kidding? It will be October.)
Overall, Month 1 has been busy and fabulous. We’re all adjusting to our new norm as a party of seven. I think we’ve all done a pretty amazing job!