Thursday, December 30, 2010

A Christmas to Remember

Amazing to think that last year at this time Brodie was in a Chinese Orphanage without Christmas, family, and all the things that go with both. The greatest thing about Christmas this year was seeing him enjoying every minute of it. The joy of seeing a 6 year old celebrating Christmas for the first time was priceless. Every time Brodie would open a gift, no matter how big or small, he would throw his hands in the air and say, "Yes! Thank you Santa!" Every single present, same thing. It was awesome. He got a Buzz Lightyear, many Batman and Spiderman figures, along with other goodies. His grasp of the English language has been simply amazing. He now can carry on a conversation with you. He understands everything we say. He is a smart little fellow. We feel so blessed to have him in our family. He fusses with his sisters as though they have been together forever, it is both irritating and beautiful. We are so thankful for our extended family for all of the special holiday memories and are also thankful to our church family for the gifts. The church gave me 3 days off and I took those this week and just hung out at the house. It has been a great time of family bonding. We bought the Wii game "just dance" and it is hilarious to watch the kids dance. Life is beautiful and we have a front row seat.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Its Beginning to look like Christmas

It is amazing to think that this time last year Brodie was receiving a Operation Christmas Child Shoebox in his orphanage in China. He had no concept of Christmas and especially its meaning. He still doesn't totally grasp everything, but we are constantly finding teachable moments. He is beginning to understand that he will get presents pretty soon. His mind is going to be blown on Christmas morning. He has never evened opened a present much less had 5 or 6 waiting under a tree. His language is getting better and better. He is slowly losing his Mandarin and gaining his English. It is a little sad for us to see him losing his original language. We would love to see him remain bilingual. He is doing great in school as well. He has not been in trouble in a long time. As a matter of fact, the other day at school he was a hero. His principal met us in car pool and told us the story. A little boy in his class stuck a little bead up his nose and Brodie informed the teachers about the incident. He told them as best he could, "Chase, has something in his nose." That little fellow had to go to the hospital to have it removed. Brodie came to the van that day wearing a medal around his neck. We have never seen him so proud. We were pretty proud as well. We almost have his room ready, just need some furniture. We can't wait to move him in his room. This little fellow has shared a room his whole life. In the orphanage he most likely slept in a room with several kids, so the idea of a room by himself is an amazing thought. Tomorrow night he will also be in his first Christmas play. Our children's choir is singing, "Christmas in Joyland." Brodie loves the music and sings it to the top of his lungs. He doesn't know all the words, but he has the melody down. Every day is an adventure. We are learning more about him and he is learning more about us.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

A Day at Children's Hospital

Our day started at 4:30 this morning. We had to be at the hospital at 6AM. Children's Hospital in Birmingham is a wonderful place. The people there are among the most wonderful people in the world. I say that unbiased even though Lorrie works there. They got us back to a room quickly and he was in surgery before 7:30. Long story short, Brodie had seven teeth pulled and several cavities filled. Dr. Shannon pulled his two front teeth on top and the bottom front teeth as well. He now looks so different without his front teeth. His molers were so decayed, I know he has been in pain. He was also circumcised and had an MRI on top of that. He finally came back to the room at 12:30 and we got home around 3:00. He has had a great amount of discomfort, but his teeth hasn't bothered him very much so far. He was such a great patient and it went as well as we could have ever dreamed. We are so thankful for our friends and family who have prayed us through this event. Unfortunately, he is now showing everyone ALL of his booboos, which has been a little interesting with his three sisters. We fear that when he gets to church Sunday the same may happen, which would ruin a good Sunday school lesson for his class. He is so excited about putting his teeth under the pillow. The tooth fairy is in for a surprise tonight with 7 teeth waiting for financial gain. How much money is that equal to anyway? We will not be at school tomorrow, but he should be good to go on Monday. We are so thankful for Nancy Brooks. She was at our house this morning at 5:15 so we could leave and the girls could sleep in on their day off from school. She took them shopping, out to lunch and even made chicken soup for Brodie to enjoy when he got home, which he did. Thanks to our parents who were just great today. Sandra brought presents and my dad bought us breakfast. Nancy also gave Brodie some gifts when he got home. We are so blessed to have such great friends and family. It was such a strange place for Lorrie and I to be today. A pastor and a Nurse is rarely the one being visited and ministered to by others, but today we were just two parents needing support. We are thankful for all of our veterans today. My dad served in Vietnam and proudly wore his veterans hat today. I am so proud to have a dad like that. Well done veterans, thank you for your service.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Brodie's First Halloween

It didn't take long for Brodie to figure out that he likes Halloween and Fall Festivals. The sisters had to show him how to trick or treat, but after the first door, he was off to the races. He went to the next door, knocked and yelled "Trick or Treat, Thank You." He got his candy and we couldn't keep up with him as he went to the next door. He was Batman which is interesting considering last week, he didn't even know who Batman was. I watched some Batman cartoons with him and then bought an action figure at Target and before long, he was sold on the costume. We had a great time this year. With Halloween being on a Sunday, we were able to trick or treat in Hueytown Saturday night. We rarely get to do that, but with our church functions on Sunday night, we took advantage of a Saturday night candy spree. Tonight was simply amazing at Valley Creek. Our fall festival was a great success and the kids had a blast. Brodie's English continues to improve. Instead of saying "Thank You" he now says, "Thank you so much." He has begun calling me "Daddy" instead of "Baba." He has begun making sentences as well and he is reading words in school and doing great. We have set his surgery for November 11th at Children's. He will have a number of minor things done that day, but it will be a long recovery with some pains to overcome. We are also so proud of Andie. She was selected as one of the Superintendent's fifth grade scholars. We will attend a special ceremony this week in recognition for her achievement. It is hard to believe that November is already here. Brodie has been home with us for over 3 months now and he continues to make amazing progress. He has not had a bad report from school in several weeks. All greens on his daily report. Thank you for your prayers and support. Don't forget that this Sunday is Orphan Sunday. We will celebrate the day at Valley Creek in both of our morning services. Lorrie and I will share our testimonies and I will preach from James 1:27.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

It is all about the color...

Brodie and the other k-5 kids are on a color system for behavior. Green means that you had a good day, yellow means that you did some things that were not very nice, and red means that you were a total terror. In Brodie's folder is a calendar and every day has a dot. That dot is filled in by his teacher every afternoon with one of these three colors. Lorrie and I find ourselves anticipating opening that folder every day to see what color he got for the day. When his dot is green, he runs out to our car in the carpool line and just goes crazy showing us his good behavior. He is so proud of himself for that. However, when the color is yellow he slowly walks up with a look of disgust on his face. We are two days in a row now with yellow dots. In the past two weeks he has hit, kicked, spit, pinched and bit another child in class. The bright side for us is that he seemingly has run the list and we cannot imagine what else he can do. We figure tomorrow he will push someone or pull their hair. Yesterday, he got in trouble for singing in the hallway. However, he was singing Jesus Loves Me. That made us feel a little better. He has lost privileges and has had to sit out of play time. It is so frustrating because he knows better. He understands what he has done and that it is not good. Yet, he chooses to keep making bad decisions. Lorrie and I are at our wits end. Tonight at church, he scratched another kid. Our son may be a bully, we don't know. One thing is for sure, he will learn right from wrong if we have to do this for an entire year, he will learn. He continues to do well with his language. He is actually reading several words now. He is struggling with his colors and his shapes. We are also finding that having a 7th grader is not easy. As I write, it is 10:11PM and Maggie is still doing homework. It has been a tough week around here!! Good news with our new room addition. Some wonderful guys have been helping us build a new room and we start sheetrocking on Saturday. It is framed, insulated, and ready for rock on the walls.
Lorrie and I are finding less time to do the things we want these days. Our days are totally filled with church, schoolwork, household chores, children's activities, and working on the new room. It seems like we are constantly cooking, cleaning, doing laundry and homework. So it really is about the color these days for us. What will Brodie bring home tomorrow. Who will his latest victim be and what will be the weapon of choice. It is like a game of clue.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Life is Wonderful...and weary

It has been a while since we have posted. Our brand new camera is broken and we can't post any pictures right now. Add that to my list of things to do this week. Brodie is up to a little over 100 English words now. Tonight, he actually read in English. It was only five words, but it is a start. He has successfully overcome his first bout with strep throat last week. He starts school and that afternoon we are at the doctor getting a big ole' shot in the leg. That didn't go well as you can imagine. He began his second week of K5 at McAdory today. Overall, things are going well. He has his moments, but that is to be expected. Lorrie is taking him to school and staying with him for a while in the morning. She started by taking him to school for two hours. He is now staying all day and Lorrie left him today for 3 hours without a call from the teacher. We think he is getting the hang of it. Language is obviously still a huge obstacle to him being totally comfortable at school. He really hasn't made any friends in his class, because the kids don't know how to communicate with him. I know that school is a lonely place for him. He is surrounded by hundreds of kids, but he lives in the shell of being incapable to generate friendships due to a lack of communication. We feel sorry for him, but in due time he will make friends. Today, we got a note home from his teacher. She said that he would not sit still during story time and he kept putting his feet on the other kids in front of him. He is still having major problems distinguishing his colors. He just can't seem to remember his blues from his reds and greens. He loves to jump on the trampoline. Today we jumped together and sang, "Jesus loves Me." We substitute his name in the chorus and we sing, "Yes, Jesus loves Brodie, Yes, Jesus loves Brodie, Yes, Jesus loves Brodie, for the Bible tells me so." He loves that song, I pray that one day he will understand the astounding meaning of those lyrics. Lorrie starts back to work next week and we are so bummed out about that. It has been so nice having her at home. Tonight, we are simply exhausted. Maggie and Andie have cheer leading from 4:00-5:00. Averie has gymnastics from 5:30-7:00 and we still had to get home, get everyone baths, cook supper and homework for four. By the time we get pajamas on, teeth brushed and everybody ready for bed, it is getting late. Lorrie and I just collapse on the couch when our last child goes upstairs for bed. Four children is pretty difficult because each child has so many needs and those needs and so dramatically complex. Brodie has picked up the habit of sticking his tongue out at us when things don't go his way. He went to bed crying tonight because he got in trouble for that. We are finding life to be exciting, amusing, exhausting and challenging all at the same time.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

School, the new frontier.

Baba and Brodie at the Golden Flake Tour

We met with the principal, vice-principal and counselor today at McAdory Elementary. It was a great meeting and we both felt great relief at the answers they gave us. Tomorrow we are going to take him to his new classroom after school so he can get acclimated to the classroom and the teacher. Mrs. Logan will be his teacher and she is super nice. We met with her today and spoke with her about our concerns and his special needs. We are planning on starting school with him Monday morning. Lorrie will set with him for the first few days. He will only go from 8:05-10:05 for the first few weeks until he gets more comfortable. We have some anxieties about this, but our trust is in the Lord. He has brought us this far and he will continue to calm the heart of our son. Every week we stretch him a little bit more with his comfort level and so far he has done well. We know school will be no exception. Our visit to the family therapist has given us so much confidence in what he can accomplish. We both feel that his best chance to learn, grow and develop is in a classroom setting with other children his age. He is getting bored staying at home every day, plus Lorrie is going back to work in two weeks.
We continue to work on our bonding, adjustment and trust each day. One thing the therapist said that was helpful to us was how much orphan children want to be held when they first get home with their new family. These little children have gone their whole life without being held lovingly by anyone. Now that they have a family, they can't get enough time in our arms. Some people have said to us "Why do you guys hold him all the time, you are going to spoil him." We asked the therapist about this and her response was, "you need to hold him as much as he wants. It is part of the bonding and he wanting you to hold him is one of the main ways that bonding occurs. He will press his face against yours and that is a great thing. So hold him as much as you can initially, it is vital to his adjustment." So if you see us holding him, it is not a kid being spoiled, it is a little boy enjoying his forever family. BTW, what is so wrong with spoiling him with attention and love anyway. He was abandoned by his parents and has been without a family for most of his life, we think he deserves a little spoiling and attention. Continue to pray for him as adjusts to his new school and his new American friends.

Monday, August 23, 2010

A Very Successful Day

We had a lot of anxiety about our visit to the International Adoption Clinic today. After the dentist appointment we just didn't know what to expect. Our appointment was at 10AM and we were there for 3 1/2 hours. We first sat down with a social worker/family therapist who specializes in internationally adopted children. She asked us several questions and just observed Brodie's interaction with us. The feedback we got back from her was outstanding. She stated that Brodie was in the top 1% of all the children she sees in relation to his adjustment and bonding with his new family. She never recommends that newly adopted children enter school the first semester. However, Brodie is doing so well that she feels he will do fine in Kindergarten. She was simply amazed at how well we were all doing. It is all an answer to prayer, it is such a God thing. We then saw Dr. Chambers and she also asked us many questions. She did a general exam and was pleased at what she saw. We then went for an ultrasound to look at his kidneys and then it was off to the lab for six vials of blood. We had a few rough moments, but for the most part he did great. It all must be so overwhelming for his little mind. The Doctor agreed that he is most likely just about to turn six. We go back in three weeks to get the results from his blood work and ultrasound. We felt so affirmed as a result of this visit. We felt as though things were going well, but to have a professional put us in the top 1% of well adjusted and bonded families was a real confirmation. As I said, this is not due to us it is all because of Jesus Christ.
What a great afternoon we had together. We played football together, did homework, ate cookies and finished our night catching fireflies. Brodie was fascinated by these little bugs whose bottoms light up in the dusk of evening. Every day we learn to love him more and each day we learn more about our son. He is an amazing little guy. He is not an orphan, not a strange kid from another country, not an adopted boy, his is simply a 6 year old normal boy. He likes to play, run, catch, throw, play with bugs, and kiss and hug his new family. He is constantly loving on us and we are loving that. We are more optimistic about our future than ever before.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Dentist Appointment

Brodie watched his sisters get their teeth cleaned first.
It was then his turn, and it didn't go well.

Dr. Shannon's office took a set back yesterday afternoon when the cry heard around the world took place. We were not sure how his first dentist appointment was going to go, but we found out quickly that it would not go well. We thought that if he could just watch his sisters get their teeth cleaned first and see them get prizes, he would be willing to do the same. It came his time and we had to forcibly lay him down on the table while Dr. Shannon bravely put his fingers in Brodie's mouth. It took 4 people to hold him down and Dr. Shannon had to pry his mouth open. He almost lost a finger at one point. The exam lasted about 3 minutes, but it seemed like 3 hours to us. The results were not good. He has two teeth that are beyond repair, another one that will need a crown and another one that will need a filling. We will schedule surgery for the dental work, but not for a few months. As we suspected, Dr. Shannon doubts that Brodie is really 6 1/2. He has no 6 year molars yet and has not lost a single baby tooth. He feels Brodie is more likely 5 1/2 to 6 years. After Brodie got up from the table he did get a few prizes. A spongebob toothbrush, toothpaste and a bouncy ball will not be enough to convince him to get back on that table. He was ringing with sweat, red faced and completely exhausted from those 3 minutes. It was likely the most horrific event of his short life. We have an appointment at the International Adoption Clinic on Monday and now we are thinking, it is not going to go well. Amazing isn't it? He gets an exam and shots in China and doesn't flinch, but freaks out when someone looks in his mouth. On the bright side, he continues to improve with his English speaking. He is singing his ABC's and can count to 20. We are planning to speak with the principal of the Elementary school next week about his educational options. We are just hoping that the first day of school will be better than the first dentist appointment.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

We are pictured with Lily. She is a guide from China who assists
parents with their Chinese adoptions. We attended the Chinese
adoption reunion put together by Lifeline.

Maggie's first day of 7th grade.

Andie's first day of 5th Grade

Averie's first day of 2nd Grade

He used up the gutter bumpers.

Everybody Goes to Milos.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Every day...a learning experience

Most new adoptive parents are ill-prepared for life at home with their new child. While you are in country with your child you really don't get a good sense of what life will be like once you get home. These first few weeks are tough. He is getting to know us and we are getting to know him. Boundaries are set, language barriers are always tough, the new routine is an adjustment and adding to an established family is interesting. Adopting a 6 year old who has lived his whole life in an orphanage comes with many risks. The bonding that should take place naturally takes a little more time. I really believe that Brodie still has in his mind that this is not his permanent home. He is staying with us for a while, but eventually we will drop him in a new home. That is what orphans come to expect. Their whole life someone has taken care of them, maybe even showed them love and then they leave. They are not conditioned to bond with anyone because everyone who has ever loved them or shown them attention has eventually left them. I believe that Brodie wonders when that day will come with us. I cannot speak to him logically and help him understand the concept of a forever home. Adopted orphans also have a tough time understanding love. He has never known real love. His parent's abandoned him before he could understand the love of parents. His Nanny's at the orphanage cared for him, but they were paid to do that. The concept of someone loving him just because they choose to love him is totally unbelievable to him. We can tell him a thousand times a day that we love him and we can even show him that he is fully loved and fully accepted, but only time, persistence, and consistent compassion will teach him true love. Everyone says, "He is so friendly, he goes to everyone." But, that is not a good thing. It is critical that he bonds with us first and even has some fear of others. We don't want him to be unfriendly to others, but it is critical that he bonds with us first. He will still run to the first person that holds out a sucker, and that is not good. With all of this being said, things are going well, but it is a learning experience every day. Brodie has never been a part of a family. He has never known the dynamics of family life; being a brother, a son, a grandson. He doesn't understand the precious thing that we have given him. But, we are OK with that. In due time, he will understand, we will gel into a family and he will blossom as a Blackwell. Our church family continues to be so great to us. Tonight he got a left handed baseball glove, an English language learning CD and DVD series, a coloring book and some pictures. Valley Creek Baptist Church is truly an amazing place filled with amazing people. I cannot begin to tell you how blessed this family feels to call that church "home" and those people "family." Please pray that Brodie will come to understand the concept of love and that the bonding will continue and improve.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Fun in the Sun

His first "Hot and Now" Krispy Kreme Donut!

Xtreme Kids Camp 2010 VCBC

Brodie is pretty good with a bat in his hand.

We are all still working on becoming a family together. Adding a little active boy has been an adjustment. Brodie never sits down unless he is sleeping. We figured he has learned around 30 English words and we continue to challenge him with new words. He can eat like a monster! He definitely has learned the word, "eat." He is getting more and more comfortable with the water when he swims and when he showers. This weekend was "Kids Camp" at Valley Creek. We had over 100 participants for the weekend, it was really great! Brodie and the girls had a great time. Bro. Steven rented some water slides and the kids went nuts on them. Lorrie and I got a much needed 3 hour break this afternoon, Mrs. Nancy took our children for a while and we got a work out in. We usually run 3 or 4 times a week, but since China we have only managed 2 runs. Brodie is sleeping well, adjusting well and seems to be very happy with his new home.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Life At Home

Brodie is doing great in McCalla. He loves his new home, his toys, the Wii, his new bike and especially his sisters. I am so proud of the girls, they have been tremendous. They have really enjoyed teaching him what it means to be a Blackwell. He loves them too. He is now sleeping with Maggie every night, he likes that best. We tried the bunk bed the first night and that didn't go so well. But with Maggie he seems right at home. We had a great weekend together. Friday night we ate at the San Antonio Grill with Grandma, Grandpa, and the Atchisons. The servers all sang to him and awarded him with a free fried ice cream, he even wore a sombrero. Yesterday we spent the day with meme, papa, and the Dummiers. We swam, cooked out, rode the golf cart around and even found some time to get on the bike for the first time. He doesn't quite understand the concept of steering and peddling at the same time. Today he made his debut at church and what a wonderful time that was. There were 430 people in worship today at Valley Creek and I believe everyone one of those people greeted him. Two weeks ago today he was in an orphanage in a small Chinese town, today he stood before hundreds of people to a standing ovation. What a difference God is already making in our son's life. What a tremendous church family we have. They took up a love offering for us and presented us with a check tonight. We feel so blessed to share our adoption journey with our church. They have been a part of it from the very beginning. I have been a pretty lousy father to my children today. I left the house this morning at 7:40 AM and got home at 10:30 PM. It was a great day, but so long. I hope to find some time to spend with all my children this week before school begins. The life of a pastor is so demanding especially when you have been out of town for two weeks. I am now trying to find that balance between my church family and my own family. The good news is that we are all adjusting to our new normal. Life is pretty amazing.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Life at home

Lorrie and I have been through a whirlwind tour over the past 48 hours. We took a train from Guangzhou to Hong Kong Wednesday afternoon that took us 2 1/2 hours. We arrived at our hotel late and grabbed the hotel shuttle to the airport terminal to find a place to eat. Those Burger King whoppers tasted pretty good. We didn't get into bed that night until well after 11:00. We boarded our plane on Thursday (China Time) at 12:10 PM. We flew for almost 15 hours before landing in Chicago. Getting through immigration and customs was crazy. We had to get our bags and recheck them. I must have shown my passport 100 times! We were feeling pretty good until we got the news, our flight to B'ham was delayed. We stayed in Chicago for 8 hours until our plane was ready. We finally took off at 9:40 PM and landed in B'ham at 11:20 PM. What a great sight it was to see our family and friends at the airport. We expected our family to be there, but our friends really blew us away. They didn't leave the airport until well after midnight. Many of them had to get up for work the next morning. What great friends we have. We were totally exhausted. Lorrie and I went 36 hours without sleep during this stretch. The girls have really taken to him and he likes them pretty good as well. We had a great surprise when we got home, there was a new bike for Brodie on our back deck. Thanks to the DeArman's, McLaughlin's, and the People's for the gift. How truly thoughtful that was. Brodie wasn't too hip on going to bed, (that is going to be an ongoing battle), so we finally hit the bed around 2:30 AM. Brodie woke us up this morning bright and early at 6AM. No rest for the weary. But, the good news is that we are at home and we now face a "new normal". We quickly realized that life as we knew it before is gone. It is better, but different. This little guy is giving us a run for our money. We are still so tired and weary from the trip, but being with our beautiful girls makes us feel so much better. Our hearts are heavy this morning for the Couch family and for Lorrie's cousin Jason. We are much in prayer today for both of these great families.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Welcome Home Brodie

What a great group waiting to say "Welcome".

Brodie was a little overwhelmed by all the attention.

Clinging to BaBa

He eventually felt at home with his sisters.

The New Look Blackwell Family