Saturday, August 01, 2015

Mavery's Heart Surgery

This morning I read back over my blog from 2009, Mavery’s first heart surgery with us.

We have come so far.

Right before we left for the hospital

Yesterday at 3AM (July 31st) my alarm went off to prepare for heart surgery #2 with us. (first was done in China, 2nd was done January 2009.)

I walked in my door from China at 11:30PM Wednesday evening, the 29th.

This was not the ideal timing situation, obviously, but it was the only time that worked with the surgeon.

So far so good, smiling before! 

Mavery was very excited for surgery.  She can remember her heart catheritzations and that memory includes presents, room service and mom sleeping with her at the hospital.

I will take excited over tears.

They took her back right about 7AM giggling and said she was giggling all the way into the OR. Love that calming medicine and just can’t understand why they don’t throw us parents an extra dose!

Surgery went well, she was in recovery quicker than we imagined (in reality it was hours but went fast with a roomful of family and friends waiting with us)

They told me they were trying to take out her breathing tube (really, already?) and would bring me her blanket, then giving me an idea when I could see her. Probably another hour.

Over an hour later they came out to say there was a problem.  She was bleeding and so they had to OPEN HER BACK UP.

Here is the good thing about surgery a day after you get back from China. You are in a huge jet lag fog and so when they tell you they have just cut your child’s chest open for the 2nd time, have put her on the by pass machine AGAIN your only coherent thought is “God, she is in your hands and I trust you”.

She came through this 2nd surgery and we finally laid eyes on her about 10 hours after we kissed her goodbye that morning.

Our first glimpse after. 

By midnight the breathing tube was out and she was asking for food.  She was not happy that they only gave her ice chips. Right before the tube came out she was so frustrated trying to communicate with me. No idea what she was saying but I tried as hard as I could to guess!

It is so hard when you just can’t fix it for your kids isn’t it?

As she was pleading with me through her eyes and I am trying to calm her down all while trying not to sob I just kept thinking over and over, Thank you God she is alive!

Tube is out! 

I remember her first surgery; 3 months home and the paralyzing fear that God had brought her home for just a little while. I was so scared He was going to make me say goodbye after I had barely said hello.

When you send your child back in for another surgery you still get those crazy thoughts. WHAT IF? (Kind of like every time I fly and I imagine the plane going down!)

But this time I was filled with more peace than that first surgery. Mavery has taught me SO much in the 7 years she has been home.  She gets EXCITED over surgery. She doesn’t complain, she just fights hard to move on.

When I first saw Mavery on a waiting child list in 2007 I fell in love. God spoke to my heart so clearly and I had no doubts she was going to be my daughter. Mark was scared that her heart condition would mean she would not live. We had her file reviewed and they said typically that condition is minor so in faith we moved forward believing her heart would be no big deal.

And of course it was a very big deal. It is not a fixable heart condition that goes away. It is an ongoing broken heart that will forever need checked and monitored. She is ok, it could be SO much worse. But it is not something that we can ever ignore or pretend is not there.

Surgery 2009

I think back on that day I first saw her face and Mark’s fears.  I see SO clearly God’s plan.

IF we had known it was so serious, we would have been to scared to move forward.

IF China had known she had a huge aneurysm on her heart (they never did a recheck after her first surgery) I am not so sure she would have been adoptable. My guess is they would have just left her for a while and that aneurysm (per her doctor could have exploded any moment) would have killed her.

I pray that Mavery ALWAYS sees God’s hand on her life. I pray that I can continue to grow and be more like Mavery, excited over the challenges and facing the future with my arms thrown open wide with a smile on my face.

The night before surgery Mark wrote a post on Facebook. I pray it touches your heart as you hear from a Daddy’s heart how much he loves his baby girl, and I pray that you know you have a Heavenly Father that loves us even more than this.  

As I was praying for Mavery's heart surgery this morning I felt compelled to write something about how she has taught our family so much and stretched us more than anyone. . This will be a little long but this is therapy for me as much as anything. Mavery came to us as a sad and broken three year old. If you have spent anytime in a Chinese orphanage you would know why. In the beginning, our emotions were strong and we were going to be perfect parents. She would come home and everything would be great. She immediately had to have open heart surgery which I think broke her just a little more. After 6 months to a year, reality set in. She was driving us crazy by doing things just to make us angry, being mean to the other kids, screaming all the time, and the other kids were resenting her (except Sage who always loved her no matter what). Shannon was in tears most days, On the darkest days I remember wondering if we made a mistake. Would our family fall apart? However, we made the decision just like God did for us that we would love her unconditionally. Our emotions would not control us, she is our child, and we would do whatever it takes. We did get counseling help which helped explain that her actions were her trying to control her world. If she could make us angry then she was in control. We just kept loving her and she has slowly blossomed. She is now 9 and is the most giving of our children. If there is one piece of cake left, toy, candy, etc..., and you did not get any she will gladly give you hers (actually she will insist). When we adopted Syler and we had to send him to school with very little English, we chose Mavery because we knew she had that nurturing instinct and would take care of him. She gladly did. She has a huge smile and everyone she meets loves her. She is hilarious. Everything is not perfect. She still has a lot of sensory issues and she is completely unpredictable. You don't want to make her mad because she can still give out the most viscious tongue lashing in the house (although if I ever had to go to war she would be my first choice). We as humans always wonder why God does not just make things easy. Our journey with Mavery is a perfect example of why. He wanted to change our hearts and to teach us to love just a little more like he loves us. Without Mavery, I would never have adopted two more kids at once with one being an older child because I saw first hand with Mavery what God cn do, I am thankful for Mavery and trusting that God will take care of my baby girl tomorrow. Also, please be in prayer for our friendKarl Nowak and family. They are adopting two in Latvia and probably experiencing the fear those first few days can bring when you wonder if you can handle this.

Monday, April 06, 2015

Happy 1 year Syler & Mercie!

One Year.

Can’t even believe it.

It seems like just yesterday and forever ago all at once.

When you first meet your new children, or even after being home a few months, you can’t help but think ahead to that one year mark.

You know life will be a bit easier, more settled, maybe calmer.

The calmer part is just a crazy dream I always seem to have even when adding more children.

Life IS a bit easier in many ways.

It IS more settled.

Not calmer, in fact I think it is more wild than a year ago!

That is a good thing. It means that life is NORMAL.

One year ago we had no idea what it would mean to bring home 2 children at once.

We did not know what it would be like to bring in an older boy who was almost 9 years old and didn’t know any language besides Chinese.

We could hardly remember what it was like to have a 2 year old, with diapers and was a baby in so many ways.

Adoption is not all that much different than birth. We forget the HARD, and we know that is God.  He brings the beautiful to mind.

 As I look back on Gotcha Day of course I DO remember the tears. But I also remember the miracle. The 2 children that God has whispered would be ours, they were in our arms forever!

Well Mercie was kind of in our arms. She was mostly kicking & screaming and so sad my heart was shattered in a 1000 pieces for days with her.

But I knew that the same God who had brought them to me, would heal that heart of hers through our love.

And He did!

Our Mercie Fei Evangelin is such pure sweetness.  Both children have changed so much but in her it is so evident because of the tears.  She spent so many months terrified. And now she has just blossomed. She loves to laugh and meet new people and while she is still cautious at times, it is not with the same depth of fear.  It is a gift to watch a child learn to trust. To watch them believe you really are their forever. She knows when mama leaves, mama comes back. Always.

Recently we had an evaluation done for school screening. She failed miserably. It is easy to start to worry and wondering if she is going to struggle. But school tests are school tests. They aren’t heart tests. And if I had to give her a heart test I believe she would pass with flying colors. Mercie is happy. She rarely cries or throws a fit. Mercie is silly! She loves to make everyone laugh. Mercie is attached. She now sleeps in her own bed and doesn’t wake up screaming or even crying. She goes in the church nursery to play with her “friends” and she knows mama will be back. So while she may not be able to say more than a few words, can’t stand on one foot or point out her colors, in one year she HAS learned that she is loved and wanted and that she is home. She has learned to trust and believe in us.

 She has wrapped herself around everyone’s finger who meets her and anyone who sees her can’t help but smile. Her curls are still there, which makes me so happy.  She still doesn’t say words clearly, but she is so expressive you can understand whatever it is she is trying to say! In the days of a crazy life you do forget sometimes the miracles of our children.  Sometimes the Lord will just flash a photo across my mind of the day I met Mercie while on a trip in China, July 2012.  I don’t get to picture her birth, but I can picture that day, that room, her sitting on the ground, me falling to my knees and on that day already begging God, is it possible she might be mine? And now she is here!

 God answers prayers. God works miracles. God brings the orphan home.

Syler Blane GuoLang, the bravest boy I know. Also probably the easiest I know. There are times Mark & I look at each other and ask, is he TO easy? Shouldn’t he be sad, or mad or grieving or defiant or combative or all the other things you worry about with older boys? Recently a friend told Mark, maybe sometimes we TRY to find things wrong and there doesn’t have to be.

Isn’t that the truth??

Yes, leaving all you know at almost 9 years old does seem traumatic. But maybe it doesn’t mean he has to be sad or mad.

Maybe he is just so happy to be home.

Maybe God has been writing us in his heart since the beginning & Syler can accept that story better than even I can.

Our boy is joy. He really is.

There are times I still have to remind myself how far he has come, and often times I get irritated over nothing.  He is a boy. He thinks like a boy. He forgets like a boy. He acts like a BOY. 

So yes sometimes we are still working on manners, where he puts things and can’t remember, don’t inhale your food, and yes you have to WASH in the shower, not just get wet.

But if I step back I remember I am still telling other certain boy(s) in this house the same things!!

Syler never argues. We spend so much time after school practicing reading, going over letters & words. I know he doesn’t want to do it while everyone is outside. But he just does it. He wants to keep up in reading with his siblings. He wants to learn! And he is learning SO much. MY brain is in overload half the time with all he is learning. How in the world can he already know all the things he knows?  One year ago he knew how to say hello. THAT.WAS.IT. He is now reading simple books! You can carry on a conversation. There is nothing he can’t explain to me or talk about. Sure there might be a few words he struggles, but overall we can talk.

Don’t get me wrong, we still have communication gaps and I have to really make sure he understands something I have said, because often I assume, and that might not work out well.

Bonding with an older boy is about as I expected it to be. Easier for dads & big brothers. Harder for me. And while I feel he trusts me, loves me, understands I am mom, I sometimes wonder if he really believes it is forever. So I am working on ways we can grow that bond. One idea we have been doing is I have him share stories he remembers about his life in China. I type it on the computer and told him someday I will make a book for him so he won’t forget. It has been kind of fun and sad all at once to imagine this life he lived before me.  One day he was telling me about riding on a motorcycle to school. I said, “I didn’t know you went to school at that age!” His reply, “Well, you never asked!”. Lesson learned. ASK questions. Keep asking the same questions.

Our Social Worker was here for our 1 year placement recently. She asked how the kids all get along. I automatically said that they fight at times, and then regretted that because shouldn’t I be raising perfect kids that love each other always and smile and never say anything mean? And then it hit me, they DO fight at times, and that means we are NORMAL. Life is normal. They are now siblings. There is no tip toeing and playing nice.  They treat each other exactly as brothers & sisters should. We fight, we make up and we love.

So how are WE doing as we have settled into this life as a family of 9? This is actually a bad week to write this because we are in the middle of house renovations. And I have not done that with 7 children in the house before. It is a bit more stressful than I expected to have construction in your house!

Besides that stress, we are busy, but feel blessed.  In some ways it has been a soul-searching year for me. I have realized that as my family grows bigger, my social life grows smaller. I miss adult interaction. Being a heart that bleeds for the orphan, it can feel a bit lonely at times. Having 7 children, 4 adopted and in constant planning of returning to China puts me a in a category that sometimes causes me to question where do I fit in? Should I move next door to the Duggars, start an adoption community commune or just move across seas where my heart seems to live? There are times I don't want to be THAT mom with ALL the kids, as if it is a weird thing. I want it to be normal to cry over orphans and nannies and wonder what God will do next with our lives.  But God has reminded me so often; He is really all I need. In His book this life is normal. I have to bend in closer to Him and remember that I need to hear HIS voice above my own or anyone else's.  (Which quite honestly scares me to death sometimes, because when you are willing to HEAR God, well, you might just be called to step out in faith!)

I don't know what our story holds. I know that in 3 months I will return to work in China. I think Mark is a bit nervous of who I will meet while there. :-) Right now, quite honestly, that is not on my mind, we are so crazy! BUT, my prayer continues to always be, Lord lead me and I promise to follow. I pray that I won't miss His voice as He speaks. 

And while we try to listen we praise Him for the year He has given us! A beautiful year of Syler & Mercie! 

**Scroll down to see our 1 year video! 

One Year with Syler & Mercie!

Monday, September 29, 2014

6 months with Syler & Mercie!

6 months.

SIX months together.

Half of a year.


I remember after getting home thinking of what life would be like in 6 months, and it seemed SO far away.

I looked forward to being able to write that post, knowing that we would be feeling more settled, calmer, SLEEPING.

But also not wanting those 6 months to fly by, as life seems to do.

And here we are.

177 days ago we met our children.

It is already getting hard to remember life before them.

And thank God we don’t have to imagine life with out them.

I have been reminiscing over our time in China, reading back over my blog, looking through photos.

They are not the same children we met that day on the other side of the world.

And we are not the same people that flew around the world as parents of 5, to become parents of 7.

Those 5 children are forever changed as they embrace their new siblings.   

God has given us a front row seat to watching Him create beautiful things.

He has shown us that we are weaker than we wanted to be, but SO so much stronger than we ever imagined possible.

He has shown us that when we throw our arms wide open, when we ask him to lead us where our trust is WITHOUT borders, wherever He calls us, our faith WILL be made stronger.  He will take us deeper than we ever imagined.

And He will walk with us.

In 6 months we have watched Him bring our new children to LIFE.  

We have watched sorrow turn to JOY.

We have watched HOPE come from where there was once none.

God has made beautiful things out of all of us.

He has made them new.

They are Laxtons forever and while people still tell us they are so lucky, we know better.

WE are the lucky ones.

It is often said, can you imagine what their life would have been like if they were still in China?

And I can’t help but think what MY life would be like if they were still in China.

YES of course, I know that God has rescued these children, they are no longer orphans.

But in the process we come to know the Rescuer more and more, and really, isn’t that what this life is all about?

Adoption. Changes. Lives.

No one should walk away from watching & be unchanged. 

This is my prayer anyways.

If someone sees our family and doesn’t see the Rescuer, the one who has saved ALL of us, we are not living the way He has called.

I want people to look at us and not think of how CRAZY it looks (because oh it really is!!) BUT how God has made beauty from ashes.

So, how IS life with 7 kids? How are they adjusting? Are we done yet? J

Life with 7 kids is as you can imagine it is, but probably not quite that insane.  It never feels like that many till I have to tell someone how many children I have and give their ages. As I watch their eyes grow large and sometimes their mouth drop open, I am reminded 7 is not so normal for most.

Well that and when I have to get all 7 out the door for church on time. Why is it Satan moves in to our houses on Sunday morning as we prepare to go and worship our Father? No matter how much we prepare the night before!

Now at first everything seemed like I had SEVEN kids. Getting food on the table, laundry, baths, TEETH, etc and so on.

Not to mention the grocery bill. But besides the grocery bill pushing a cart full of groceries for 9 people!!

As the months have gone on, 7 doesn’t seem like so many. We have all settled in. Dinner is calmer, bedtime routine is down.

Though Sunday mornings still 
need some work!

Let’s start with Mercie Fei. Our baby girl. Oh the sweetness that pours out of her. She has this house wrapped around her tiny finger. I am not sure I ever talked about the way my olders were hesitant about adopting her. They were GREAT with an older child, but another baby? WHY???

And then she came home. They saw her terrified and anxious.

God moved their hearts in mighty ways and they have been Fei Fei’s biggest cheerleaders.  Sawyer definitely had to work the hardest, she was so nervous with any males. But watching him with her and how much she loves her biggest brother are so special.

We do still call her Fei Fei, though we try to say Mercie at times, and she responds to Mercie. She does call herself Fei Fei, which she just learned this week.

Language is slow.  You might be able to understand a handful of words. No being the loudest followed by Mama, which she can say in 100 different tones.

She still sleeps in our room, right next to our bed. She feels safe and secure and right now that is what we want. The fact that we are a bit out of bedrooms is also part of this.

She is hilarious and so stinken cute honestly we can hardly stand it. Her hair gets curlier the longer it gets. She is still such a tiny pixie and fits in as our baby just perfectly.

When I look back at the photos of her in China I am shocked. It is hard to remember how much she hated me, how sad she was, how EMPTY she felt.

God has breathed life into Mercie. She giggles all the time, she rarely cries, she hugs & kisses freely and you can just see the light that shines from her.

There are moments I remember wondering if my story was going to actually include her. The fear I felt as we pursued her, begging God to let her be ours.

And now she is!

Our sweet son is doing AMAZING. Everyone told me you will be shocked in 6 months, and I AM.

Syler has embraced his role in our family and hasn’t looked back.

Language is booming. He is in 3rd grade and in the same class as Mavery at school. He has an amazing Christian teacher and the school has gone above and beyond in helping him. We do not have ESL classes but they are doing everything possible to help him succeed. He works so hard and you can tell he is just smart. Things come easier for him than some.  We struggled on sending him vs homeschool.  We wanted to make sure he felt secure and loved before sending him off. It is good when you see God confirming your choice as we watch him blossom at school.

He is VERY laid back (thank the Lord!) and calm. He is snuggly and full of hugs for his mama. He is all BOY and is happiest running around outside.

He eats everything. We joke about how he did not want to try things at first and turned his nose up at most things. Now there is nothing he does not inhale. Seriously, he is the least picky in my house. He says “Mama make good food”. J

We very rarely see defiance in him, unhappiness, jealousy etc.. He and Sage had some competition going on for a while but that has even gone away.  Recently I found a ton of GUM, chewed gum hidden on the floor beside his bed. But once we talked it through (and took away gum chewing for a time) we have not had problems.

Seriously he is like the perfect child and has made older BOY child adoption look easy.

He holds us accountable to family devotions every night and prayer before meals. Recently his cross fell off his wall and he was holding it. I asked him “Syler who is that cross about.”. He answered Jesus. And I said “who is Jesus?” He quickly answered Jesus is God.

6 months and my son can say the name of Jesus.

Because HE has rescued us.

Of course Syler does not understand all of how God has written His story quite yet. But everyday we point life back to the author.

Someday Syler will have such a story to share. Unlike his sisters, He does remember life in China. And while I know these memories could make him bitter, we continue to pray that they will make him better.

Better at seeing the Rescuer and how His plans are always best.

I realize older child adoption is not for everyone. And how scary older BOYS can seem.

But we are here to say if God is nudging you in that direction, He will make it beautiful.

Sometimes it seems we are ALWAYS teaching Syler. How to speak English, school stuff, how to act in situations, manners, rules, schedules, the list goes on and on.  AND on.

But in reality, Syler has taught us more than we will ever teach him.  No matter the situation Syler NEVER complains. He looks at everything as an adventure. He accepts what is given to him and never gets down. If it were ME walking in his shoes I would never get over my pity party. Learning a language is HARD work. Going to school and not understanding the other kids is hard. When everything is new for me, it is HARD. And I whine and carry on. But not my son. He just smiles.

There are times that I am tired. It IS a lot of kids. It is such a variety of needs. I am parenting toddlers AND teens. (for the record, they are both hard! Toddlers are physically EXHAUSTING. Teens are mentally EXHAUSTING!)

But in those moments when I get frustrated, it all comes down to me and my selfishness. I would love to have the time to do things for ME. I miss writing. I should exercise. I like shopping ALONE. I don’t want to help with homework or homeschool or change a diaper or well you get the idea.

Then I look around me and see how much God has given me. SO much more than I deserve.  I look at my children, each of them, and see how God has grown their hearts. I think of the ones we have left behind in that orphanage, who are dying inside as they hope for a family.

praise God for being our HOPE.

I make comments often, “IF we adopt again, etc and so on” Tonight someone said back, It is not IF but WHEN….

Quite honestly right now I have no idea if our family is complete. (for the record, IF we adopt again, the child MUST be pottytrained!! Ha!)

I have no idea how God will continue to write our story.

Maybe this is our 7th Heaven and we are done. 

Maybe it is more. (there is such a gap between the 3 and Mercie, I mean really, I DO like having twins!)  ;-)

Whatever it may be, I trust in the One who brought us this far. 

The one who has allowed me to see these 2 beautiful children, who grew in my heart for so long, blossom to LIFE in my arms.

6 months since FOREVER..